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Mr. Obama wanted Mr. Daschle to oversee development of his health-care reform program, but in the end he had become a case study in conflicts of interest that turned into an ethical nightmare for the administration.

The third nominee to run into income tax trouble Tuesday was Nancy Killefer, nominated to be a deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the administration’s chief performance officer. She withdrew her name Tuesday after it came to light that she had mishandled her payroll taxes.

But the sloppy vetting by the Obama transition team doesn’t end there. His transition advisers gave the green light to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to be his commerce secretary, despite a widely known federal investigation into a state pay-to-play scandal in which one of the governor’s top campaign donors received a lucrative state transportation contract. The Obama transition said it was unaware of the scandal, though the story was in the newspapers for many months. Mr. Richardson was asked to withdraw his name and he did so.

These embarrassing vetting blunders were “really quite stunning for a transition team that has so carefully studied everything that might go wrong,” said presidential scholar Stephen Hess at the liberal Brookings Institution.

If any of these tax-evasion cases had broken in a Republican White House, the Democrats would scream for a special prosecutor and block any vote. The Democrats confirmed Mr. Geithner Monday and probably would have confirmed Mr. Daschle, too, but he mercifully spared Mr. Obama and his party from the bloody Senate battle that would have ensued.

Leona Helmsley, the late New York real estate millionaire who went prison for failing to pay her taxes, once said, “Only the little people pay taxes.” Three high-income tax-evaders in a row this week left many people thinking the Obama Democrats were adopting Mrs. Helmsley’s imperious rule.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.