CBS Pundit Defends Daschle But Slammed Tom Delay

Melanie Sloan, CBS On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Bill Plante reported on Health and Human Services Secretary nominee, Tom Daschle, failing to pay taxes and working as a health care lobbyist: "Daschle's problem shines a light on something that usually stays in the shadows around here, and that is how connections work in Washington. When is a lobbyist not a lobbyist, and how does a power player, like the former Senate majority leader, not know that he owes back taxes?"

The report featured Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibilities and Ethics, who defended Daschle: "What Tom Daschle does is the more sophisticated kind of lobbying we have in Washington, where he's a consultant. And he talks to people about the strategy for getting a piece of legislation passed...Maybe the truth of the matter is, you need some of those Washington insiders in order to make your new government work. But then let's say that."

However, in a 2005 column by Ari Berman in the liberal magazine, The Nation, Sloan was quoted reacting to an ethics scandal surrounding Republican House majority Leader Tom Delay: "The fact that Tom DeLay is under criminal indictment and Senate majority leader Bill Frist is under criminal investigation is a historic first...This demonstrates the culture of corruption among the Congressional leadership that has become a cancer on our country." Berman’s column was posted on the CBS News website.

Later on Tuesday, Daschle withdrew from the nomination. However, Plante concluded his morning report by optimistically declaring: "The Senate is almost certain to confirm Daschle next week. After all, he was one of them. The White House just wants to change the subject. The president wants to talk about the stimulus plan and its tax relief instead of about who owes back taxes."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: All the president's men and their confirmation troubles. President Obama tries again with his commerce secretary nominee as tax troubles threaten his health nominee, Tom Daschle.

TOM DASCHLE: It was completely inadvertent. But that's no excuse. And I deeply apologize.

7:08AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: A confirmation hearing is scheduled next Tuesday for former Senator Tom Daschle, nominated for secretary of health and human services. Initially believed to be a shoo-in, Daschle has a big tax problem. We're joined by CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante. Morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Morning, Harry. Daschle's problem shines a light on something that usually stays in the shadows around here, and that is how connections work in Washington. When is a lobbyist not a lobbyist, and how does a power player, like the former Senate majority leader, not know that he owes back taxes? Let's have a look at the Daschle dossier. When Daschle lost his seat in 2004 after 17 years in the Senate, he joined the law and lobbying firm of Alston and Bird, but he's not technically a lobbyist.

MELANIE SLOAN: What Tom Daschle does is the more sophisticated kind of lobbying we have in Washington, where he's a consultant. And he talks to people about the strategy for getting a piece of legislation passed.

PLANTE: The Alston Bird firm represented a long list of clients in health services. Daschle also joined media investor Leo Hindery to chair a new company of regulatory experts. He was paid over $2 million, $83,000 of which was not reported because of a clerical error. Hindery also gave Daschle the use of his private car and driver. But it was only last June that Daschle asked his accountant if he owed taxes on the use of the car. And December when he paid $140,000 in taxes and penalties on the car and the unreported income.

SLOAN: Maybe the truth of the matter is, you need some of those Washington insiders in order to make your new government work. But then let's say that.

PLANTE: Daschle says if he's confirmed, he'll take no part in any decisions affecting former clients. And he's now apologized to his former senate colleagues and the public.

TOM DASCHLE: It was completely inadvertent, but that's no excuse. And I deeply apologize.

PLANTE: The Senate is almost certain to confirm Daschle next week. After all, he was one of them. The White House just wants to change the subject. The president wants to talk about the stimulus plan and its tax relief instead of about who owes back taxes. Harry.

SMITH: Alright, Bill Plante at the White House this morning, thanks so much. And it's -- I think it's going to get harder for Tom Daschle. In the New York Times editorial page this morning, it says he ought to pull out. So, we'll see what happens.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: I've heard at least one person say 'why should I pay my taxes if he didn't?' And he gets to be on the cabinet, so.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC