Opening iffy cupboards
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA has got off to a dismal start – to say the least – with some first-choice picks for his administration. The first major casualty was Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico. He was nominated as Commerce Secretary but quit even before Obama had been formally installed in the White House.
Richardson was by then facing a major graft investigation into the award of state contracts, with allegations of personal gain. He said those charges would be “a distraction” to work as a member of Obama’s top team.
Then came Timothy Geithner, who has become Treasury Secretary. Geithner had to belatedly admit to a Senate hearing on his appointment on what he called “careless mistakes” in his income tax returns when working at the International Monetary Fund. In other words, he had submitted false, understated returns. However, Geithner paid his back taxes and got the job.
Now we have Tom Daschle, former leader of the Democrats in the Senate, who has been nominated by Obama as Health Secretary. Daschle has just admitted he failed to pay more than US$128 000 in taxes that should properly have been contributed by him. He’s told the US Senate he’s “deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the errors that required me to amend my tax returns”.
Also, high-ranking Democratic Representative Charles Rangel, head of the important way and means committee in the House, discovered he’s also made errors in his tax submissions. Crucially, he neglected to include $75 000 in rental income from a property he owns in the Caribbean. A Republican senator observed: “No wonder the Democrats favour high taxes. They don’t pay them.”
But both parties have plenty of tax and other scandals in their cupboards.