- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If Tom Daschle had his way, Tom Daschle would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for failing to pay his taxes.

At least according to the old Tom Daschle, who gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor about the scourge of tax scofflaws.

“Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter,” the former Senate Majority Leader said in 1998 during a debate on a bill reforming the Internal Revenue Service.

The blogosphere went wild after Mr. Daschle’s Tuesday withdrawal from his nomination to be Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. Discovered in the blitz was a campaign ad from 1986, when the former South Dakota Democrat was running for election. Click here to see the ad.

Then-Rep. Daschle is shown driving a beat-up, old 1971 Pontiac in Washington as a narrator talks of his humble needs. “Among Washington’s BMWs and limos, is this: Since 1971, the old Pontiac has served its owner well. Sure it’s rusted, and it burns a little oil,” the narrator says. “But after 15 years and 238,000 miles, Tom Daschle still drives his old car to work every day. Maybe he’s sentimental — or just cheap. Whatever the case, isn’t it too bad the rest of Washington doesn’t understand that a penny saved … is a penny earned.”

Mr. Daschle was the third high-profile nominee by President Obama to bow out, after belatedly paying nearly $140,000 in penalties and interest for a chauffeured limousine provided by a wealthy Democratic donor. He said he assumed he was getting a free ride and simply didn’t know that the limo should have been considered “imputed income.” On Tuesday, performance officer nominee Nancy Killefer also dropped out because she, too, had tax problems. Mr. Obama initially had tapped Bill Richardson to be Commerce secretary, but the New Mexico governor withdrew amid a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner slipped through Senate hearings before Mr. Obama took the oath of office, despite having failed to pay $34,000.

Mr. Daschle, who emerged ashen-faced from a Senate hearing room Monday night after a closed-door grilling by Finance Committee members about the unpaid taxes, was said to still hold popularity among his former colleagues. But some vowed to question him hard over the scandal, and others still held old grudges.

Some senators remember 2001, when Mr. Daschle, then the Senate Democratic leader, helped torpedo President Bush’s choice to head the Labor Department, Linda Chavez. The Hispanic woman admitted housing an illegal immigrant and giving her money, which was more than Mr. Daschle could bear. “The labor secretary ought to set the example,” he said.

Mr. Obama was reportedly furious over the continuing stream of nominees who failed to pay their taxes. In a series of mea culpas on TV, he said he had “screwed up” and “messed up.” “This is a self-induced injury that I’m angry about, and we’re going to make sure we get it fixed,” Mr. Obama said. “We can’t afford glitches, because right now, what I should be spending time talking to you about is how we’re going to put 3 [million] to 4 million people back to work.”