02 February 2009

Taxes? But... It Was a Gift, Right?

This is Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader from South Dakota. Don't those red-rimmed, round frames make him look a bit eccentric? I always think when someone wears glasses like that, that they must have four more pairs in orange, yellow, green and blue. Who owns just one pair of glasses that are red? That's a fashion statement, not an astigmatism cure, for heavens sake!
Well, anyway, Mr. Daschle has been very busy since leaving public office. So busy, in fact, that it never occurred to him that friendly "gifts" from employers that are worth thousands of dollars are taxable. But that's ok. It almost certainly occurred to the giver.
Senator Tom Daschle, the former "choirboy and flag carrier" under Bill Clinton's administration was voted out of office a couple of years back. But he who was formerly one of the most powerful men in Washington, and thereby the Free World, has risen again from the ashes.
It's just that he's still wearing a little of the dirt.
Now that he's been nominated as the Secretary of Health and Human Services by our new President Barack Obama, his finances are being examined. It turns out that he forgot to pay taxes on the "gift" of a chauffeur and limosine placed at his disposal by the founder of InterMedia.
Mr. Daschle needed it to get to and from all the jobs he was working after he was "laid off" by South Dakota's voters. He did okay for himself. He got a job at a big Washington DC law firm, in spite of not having a law degree. Paid $2.1M over the past two years.
And he worked as a consultant at InterMedia, which is a private equity firm. Took in another $1M a year there.
Of course he also made lots of speeches and picked up another $500K and sat on some boards for another couple hundred thousand bucks. Yep, he stayed busy. So he definitely had need for that limousine and chauffeur. He just forgot to include that perk in the column marked "pay."
He's said he's sorry and he's paying back taxes. Probably penalties, too, if I know the IRS like I think we all know the IRS. It might end there. But let's look at who is listening to his apology: his former fellow members of Senate.
They're pretty understanding guys... and a few gals in those hallowed chambers. You know why? Because they get a chauffeur-driven limousine with the job, too. And they aren't required to pay taxes on theirs either.
It's sort of the human version of being "franked" every morning. "Franking" is the law that allows all of Congress' mail to go out without being stamped. It's "franked" and is delivered by the U.S. Postal Service at no charge to Congress. So every morning, all senators get "franked" by their chauffeurs to the Capitol.
Suh-weet, huh? Yeah, if I were one of those members, I might be pretty understanding, too. After all, Mr. Daschle is a working man. And me? I'm just trying to understand.

By the way, a new survey reported in the Washington Post says 9 out of 10 Americans don't like tax cheats. Not at all.

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