U.S. Treasury Secretary Nominee Tim Geithner went into a closed door hearing with Senate Finance Committee members to explain his late tax payments -- and employment of an immigrant with an expired visa.
So, Treasury Secretary-designate Tim Geithner has a tax problem.
To be exact, he has at least one tax problem and a related issue: 1) He owed the federal government some $43,000 in non-payment of Social Security and Medicare taxes for work while he was employed by the I.M.F in 2001-04; 2) He also employed a domestic worker whose immigration status lapsed. On the former, Talking Points Memo reports that he only paid his tax bill after Obama nominated him. The Senate Finance Committee postponed its confirmation hearings to sort things out.
For those paying attention, if Geithner is still confirmed (most Republicans still seem favorable to him), tax policy will be drafted through a House Ways and Means Committee whose chairman is under investigation for several non-payment of various taxes and other other problematic ethical issues. And the enforcement and execution of those policies will be overseen by a department head with tax "overlooking" problems of his own.
But the greater problem here is what the Geithner embarrassment says about the people vetting Obama's choices. Consider, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has already withdrawn as commerce secretary because of an ongoing federal investigation into state contracts. This week, The New York Times revealed that Mary Schapiro, nominee for the particularly-sensitive-right-now position of chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has been accused in two lawsuits of making misleading statements to support the swift merger of regulatory organizations. Working for one of those organizations, Schapiro emerged from the merger with a 57 percent hike in pay.
Expect a doozy of a confirmation hearing for Schapiro.
Any one of these issues should have been major red flags for Obama people doing their due diligence on the president-elect's choices. In Schapiro's case, being the target of a lawsuit shouldn't be automatically disqualifying, but the nature of the charges in the lawsuit should give one pause -- lying over regulatory merger from which she realized a sizable financial windfall? Hello?
The excuse over the Richardson nomination was that he wasn't "forthcoming" to the transition team in the exact nature of the federal investigation.
What's their excuse over Geithner? Or Schapiro? If they weren't "forthcoming" enough, well, there's obviously something wrong with either the questions being asked -- or the questioners themselves.
Once is a fluke. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a trend.
That's not a trend that a new administration that wants to hit the ground running needs.
Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots and dabbles in stand-up comedy.