Daschle And The Car: Who Knew What And Why It Matters

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Based on interviews with aides and public documents provided to reporters by the finance committee, here's what is known about former Sen. Tom Daschle, his tax liaibilities, and his disclosures to the friendly White House and to the friendly-but-constitutionally neutral Senate Finance Committee.

 

What did Daschle know in June of 2008?

 

There have public reports in June that he knew he had a tax liability; the Daschle team strenuously denies it. In their chronology, June of 2008 was when Daschle first become aware of the potential that he might have had to declare the Hindery driver and car as income. The self-awareness, it seems, came from a conversation about drivers and perks that Daschle participated in during a social event.  After this realization, Daschle notified his personal accountant and asked him to look into the matter.

 

When did Daschle learn that he'd have to adjust his taxes? 

 

Unrelated to the car, and during the first phase of the vetting, in late November, Daschle was informed that he improperly deducted certain charitable contributions; in one case, he named an individual, rather than the charitable entity to which the individual belonged, as the recipient of the money; he did not have receipts for other gifts.   On December 2,  Hindery's company, Intermedia, told Daschle that it had neglected to report $83,000 in income Daschle earned to the IRS, so Daschle would have to pay back taxes - although the company took responsibility for the mess-up.

 

When did Daschle learn that he had to pay taxes on the car?  

 

In mid-December; after he had been nominated (December 11); Daschle asked his accountant to report back to him on that car thing he had first mentioned in June. Daschle's accountant asked him for information on the duration of his use of the car and said he would calculate the retroactive tax burden for Daschle. 

 

Was the vetting team aware of the charitable contribution fix and the Intermedia income fix in December? 

 

Yes.

 

Was the vetting team - herein a catch-all phrase for the Obama transition team / White House team - aware of the car and driver issue in December? 

 

No.

 

Why?

This is a little fuzzy. It's probably because Daschle did not know how much taxes he would have to repay, what the procedure would be, and wanted to essentially tie up the box before he presented it to the relevant Congressional committee;

 

Shouldn't Daschle have told the Obama inner circle that there was something more amiss than just the Intermedia payment and the charitable contribution fixes?

This is a question for Daschle and for the White House.  Because Daschle would have paid the taxes anyway, he clearly intended to disclose the car issue to his team at some point.  The explanation from Daschle's world is that he wanted to fix the problem, to figure out exactly how much taxes he owed, so that when he turned over his tax documents to the committee, there'd be a complete story to tell with no loose ends.

 

When did Daschle pay his taxes? 

 

On Jan. 2.

 

When did Daschle inform the White House that he had to amend his tax returns to include the use of Hindery's car and driver?

 

 Jan 4.

 

Who brought the issue to the attention of the Finance Committee? 

 

According to the committee and to Daschle aides, it was Daschle and the Obama vetting team who disclosed the information.

Was the vetting team aware of the charitable contribution fix and the Intermedia income fix in December? 

 

Yes.

 

Was the vetting team - herein a catch-all phrase for the Obama transition team / White House team - aware of the car and driver issue in December? 

 

No.

 

Why?

This is a little fuzzy. It's probably because Daschle did not know how much taxes he would have to repay, what the procedure would be, and wanted to essentially tie up the box before he presented it to the relevant Congressional committee;

 

Shouldn't Daschle have told the Obama inner circle that there was something more amiss than just the Intermedia payment and the charitable contribution fixes?

This is a question for Daschle and for the White House.  Because Daschle would have paid the taxes anyway, he clearly intended to disclose the car issue to his team at some point.  The explanation from Daschle's world is that he wanted to fix the problem, to figure out exactly how much taxes he owed, so that when he turned over his tax documents to the committee, there'd be a complete story to tell with no loose ends.

 

When did Daschle pay his taxes? 

 

On Jan. 2.

 

When did Daschle inform the White House that he had to amend his tax returns to include the use of Hindery's car and driver?

 

 Jan 4.

 

Who brought the issue to the attention of the Finance Committee? 

 

According to the committee and to Daschle aides, it was Daschle and the Obama vetting team who disclosed the information.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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