Daschle apologizes over tax errors

DASCHLE APOLOGIZES OVER TAX ERRORS…. It remains to be seen whether contrition will help.

Tom Daschle apologized Monday to the Senate panel that will decide whether he becomes Health and Human Services secretary, saying he was “deeply embarrassed and disappointed” about his failure to pay more than $120,000 in taxes.

In a letter to the Senate Finance Committee, President Barack Obama’s pick to oversee the new administration’s health initiatives sought to explain how he overlooked taxes on additional income for consulting work, the use of a car service and paperwork to support claims for charitable contributions.

Daschle recently filed amended tax returns to report $128,203 in back taxes and $11,964 in interest.

Daschle’s five-paragraph letter, described as an “explanation” letter, told the Finance Committee’s leadership, “As you can well imagine, I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the errors that required me to amend my tax returns. I apologize for the errors and profoundly regret that you have had to devote time to them. I will be happy to answer any Committee members’ questions about these issues.”

He then addressed three specific areas of concern — charitable deductions, the use of a car service, and a Form 1099 “clerical error” — before concluding, “We provided all this information to the Committee in addition to the completed Committee questionnaire and my responses to your staff’s questions. I disclosed this information to the Committee voluntarily, and paid the taxes and any interest owed promptly. My mistakes were unintentional.”

At this point, it’s simply unclear what kind of Republican opposition Daschle is likely to face. As far as I can tell, South Carolina’s Jim DeMint is the only one who’s come close to announcing his opposition. A full-court press this isn’t.

Ezra, meanwhile, has a couple of interesting items on the controversy. One notes that Daschle’s error appears to be “a legitimate mistake,” though it’s one that will likely “damage his credibility among those who disagree with his decisions.” He also argues, though, that the controversy “probably” shouldn’t derail Daschle’s nomination, at least if a healthcare overhaul is the end goal: “[W]atching his Senate colleagues rally around him actually underscores Daschle’s fitness for the job. Daschle is uniquely respected by this former colleagues and appears able to ensure himself a more than fair hearing even under less than ideal circumstances. Watching Daschle’s former colleagues leap to his defense and attest to his integrity and fairness, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t the guy you want convincing and cajoling and reassuring nervous senators when health reform turns hard. You want the guy who gets the benefit of the doubt. You want the guy they viscerally trust, the guy they believe even when the obvious political move is to discount his testimony.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.