“The tax issues of the nominees considered by the committee this year came to be public only because the nominees chose to proceed.”Remember that the Obama people knew all about Tim Geithner's tax problems and decided to go ahead anyway. They figured that, in the current economic situation, the Senate and the public would just sigh and sign on to their nominees. They gambled that Obama's popularity was so high that they could withstand such stories. But it turned out that they overestimated what the public was willing to accept from the new administration. And sending a bunch of people with tax problems to work in the administration while the public is facing such economic anxieties.
Grassley said the committee has always requested three years of tax returns from nominees, and always employed experts to review them. And in the past, he added, “many nominees” faced questions based on their tax returns. The reason tax problems seem more prevalent now, Grassley explained, is that in previous administrations those nominees chose to quietly withdraw. Now, they try to stick it out, leading to sometimes embarrassing controversy. “Chairman Baucus and I agree that if a nominee chooses to proceed after tax issues are identified, then the public should be informed of those issues,” Grassley said.
I asked a Senate source close to the nominating process why the troubled nominations kept coming, in spite of the tax problems. “I think it was the administration underestimating what the grassroots folks who elected President Obama were going to object to,” the source told me. With the out-of-touch White House firmly behind the nominees, Senate Democrats got the message that they, too, needed to line up in support. So they did — until they started hearing from outside the Washington bubble. “If you look at Daschle’s experience, he came out of a meeting with members of the committee, and the Democratic members said they supported him,” the insider pointed out. “But on the next day he withdrew.”