President Obama's pick for secretary of health and human services, Tom Daschle, failed to pay more than $140,000 in taxes, mostly for free use of a car and driver that had been provided to him by a prominent businessman and Democratic fundraiser, administration officials said Friday.
Daschle, concluding that he owed the taxes, filed amended returns and paid more than $100,000 in back taxes and interest on Jan. 2, the officials said.
The car and driver were provided by Leo Hindery Jr., who had been chairman of YES, the New York Yankees regional sports network. In 2005, Hindery founded a private equity firm known as InterMedia Advisors. Daschle was chairman of InterMedia's advisory board.
In a statement filed this month, Daschle reported that he had received large amounts of income from InterMedia, including more than $2 million in consulting fees and $182,520 in the form of “company-provided transportation.”
The belated tax payments help explain delays in the confirmation of Daschle, a former Senate Democratic leader who had been expected to win swift approval.
Despite the embarrassing admission — the second for one of Obama's Cabinet choices — the White House and Democratic senators quickly released statements on Friday evening in Daschle's support.
It was not clear whether Daschle's tax problems would derail his nomination. The confirmation of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was held up only briefly after the disclosure that he'd failed to pay more than $34,000 in taxes.