what's the real deal on Obama's vetting process?

I confess that I’m baffled by the revelations of Richardson, Geithner, and now Daschle that they had tax or ethics issues prior to being nominated to be part of the cabinet. I thought that there was a 37 page questionnaire that EVERYONE had to respond to. And I thought there were questions such as, “Is there anything in your past or current condition that could come back to be an embarrassment to you or to this administration?” And, I thought that the answers were checked by the transition team. Now, I’m wondering if the vetting process was really just a screener, intended to keep some people from even applying. But, really, what happened when those folks answered the questions? Were they, in fact, vetted for accuracy? If so, how do these facts suddenly emerge? Or, were they not checked for truth? Something seems amiss and I can’t quite figure it out. Does anyone here know about the actualy vetting process and why it didn’t do the job it was intended to? Looking for some straight dope here, as opposed to WAGs, which I can do on my own. xo, C.

I don’t know the full details about Dashle yet but Geithner should be in jail for deliberate tax fraud. He was audited for something that he can claim he and his accountant were unaware of but he he would have known after the audit that he owed the taxes for years prior to the audit.

I don’t buy the idea that these high powered DC elite don’t understand that taxes are paid on all wages and benefits. It’s an insult to the public’s intelligence. And to insist they are so important that tax evasion should be waved for the good of the country is the height of hubris on the President’s part.

My question is why should anyone who owes the IRS $1 pay it when politicians can skate through $100,000 in back taxes like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. If they owe over $100,000 think of the amount of money that was made for “consulting” which is nothing more than back door lobbying in the good-ole-boy club.

Here’s an idea Mr President, while you’re publicly admonishing people for taking bonuses and insisting we tax the rich more, why don’t you mention the concept of your cronies paying their CURRENT tax bill.

The problem with tax returns is that it takes some sort of audit to identify some of the issues. In the case of Geithner, it’s clearly an honest mistake – he saw that he was having the SS taxes taken out of his paycheck, but didn’t realize his employer wasn’t making a contribution.*

With Daschle, he probably didn’t realize his mistake, either. In addition, people routinely “forget” to include outside income; I’m sure many senators probably could be found guilty of this sort of behavior at some point (not that it justifies it; but it does not justify the high dudgeon).

So when they filled out the form, they honestly believed there were no issues.

*Have you checked that your employer is? I didn’t think so.

That strikes me as a tad silly. I expect a cabinet nominee to be slightly more sophisticated and circumspect than the average taxpayer.

If these people believed that there was no issue, then how did the issues get discovered? And why didn’t the vetting process discover them? Anyone know how the vetting process actually worked?/works?

No, that’s an inaccurate representation of what occured. He was audited for 2003-2004 and he paid the taxes due. What he just now paid were the same taxes for earlier years not audited. Once audited, he knew he owed the money.

The vetting process did work. Obama’s team was aware of it:
Geithner worked at the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2003. The Obama Transition Team discovered that Geithner had not paid self-employment taxes (which the IMF requires their employees to do) from 2001 -2002 as they were vetting him for Treasury secretary. Geithner has since paid back the money that he owes. **

Did they discover Daschle’s problem, too? Is that how the information is coming to light?

Why? These people are not superhuman, and there’s no reason to expect them to be tax experts on top of whatever their actual careers are.

I expect the people who vote for the taxes I pay to be as diligent in paying them as they expect me to be.

Vetting Procedure

When you don’t pay over $100,000 in TAXES that means you make enough INCOME to hire a real accountant. You don’t have to be superhuman to hire competent people which I think would be kinda important as the leader of Health and Human Services.

Back to the OP, I haven’t seen any evidence that the vetting process didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Apparently these incidents were revealed by vetting as they were supposed to.

But that doesn’t mean, as the OP seems to suggest, that the candidate is automatically disqualified for the position. Sometimes it means, exactly as it happening now, that some careful spinning and spot cleaning is necessary so that one stain doesn’t ruin and overwhelm the entirety of a whole career. Which is as it should be, depending on the nature of the stain.

I have an accountant. I sign the tax papers she gives me. If she’s wrong I’ll be in big trouble. I’ve put together department budgets for city government. My wife’s an MBA and likes working on taxes even less than I do even though she handles nine-figure projects. So what. Tax forms are for experts in keeping up with the latest minutiae that got changed this year and should be avoided at all costs by civilians. I’m completely in sympathy with the candidates who got into trouble and I would be if they were Republican. This is embarrassing in a media age that must comment on things that are less than nothing unless they can be used symbolically, but not in the tiniest bit meaningful.

what you said would be true but that is not what happened here. First, these aren’t nuanced errors. They are the result of unreported income. Second, in Geithner’s case, he would have known that the error found by the IRS applied to prior years. That is what is in question. He already paid the taxes from the IRS audit. His position as Treasury Secretary is directly related to agencies involved in tax collection. He needs to be cut loose if there is to be any credibility.

Geithner’s in office so cutting him loose is not an option. Daschle remains to be seen.

Factually speaking, the answer to the question is that people didn’t consider this enough of an issue to bar Geithner’s confirmation. Whether it should be or not can be endlessly debated, but that debate is now moot. Practically speaking, if Geithner got through then Daschle also will.

I wish we could concentrate on matters of substance rather than easily abstracted symbolic soundbites. It didn’t bother me that the auto executives flew in corporate jets to Washington, even for a bailout. I thought that was the most efficient use of their time, time totally wasted by having to drive the 1000 miles from Detroit to Washington (and back). Sarah Palin’s wardrobe was the least important factor in my judgment of her. I’d love to have Rod Blagojevich’s hair; don’t waste my time mocking it.

Symbols are incredibly important. Obama made excellent use of symbology in his first week. As a writer one of my big tools is symbology. But some symbols count and others shouldn’t. Not paying taxes certainly should. Not paying a tiny amount of taxes on one item that got left out probably shouldn’t.

We used to live in a world in which a divorced politician could never be elected to office. An admission of marijuana use once got a Supreme Court nominee rejected. Those were symbols that everybody now realizes aren’t reflective of a person’s entire career and character. What is such a worthy symbol that one instance disqualifies a person from high office in this day and age is an interesting discussion. A tax glitch? That’s a wardrobe malfunction. I’ve got real scandals to bother me.

Guess not. He didn’t give them the chance.

I gotta say I love the idea that accurate tax payment is symbolic rather than substantive, and that only a superhuman tax expert - not a mere top-level government official - could get it right.

Ah, but Map, symbols are important. While I agree that our focus is far too often on insignificant symbols of insignificant issues, your examples are not particularly potent. The auto industry is being criticized for being shortsighted, wasteful, top-heavy, and profligate when it comes to corporate pay. When they come to DC to ask for money, the symbolism of their choice of transportation is significant. It didn’t symbolize efficient use of time, it symbolized their total lack of sensitivity to the state of the country. The least they could have done would have been to have flown together, to say nothing of flying on an airline. Not paying a tiny amount of taxes shouldn’t be important. Getting audited, finding errors and paying for them, and then ignoring the same errors that you know must exist in prior years is symbolic of hubris. That* is *imporant, considering that character is supposed to be one of the defining aspects of this administration’s choices.

My admittedly knee-jerk reaction to all of this is that the entire vetting process should be WAY more upstream… in other words, why aren’t we putting people through this vetting process when they run for Congress or other major public office in the first place, with biennial renewals required?

For all we know, the people doing the political grandstanding in Senate hearings could have the same issue… I certainly wouldn’t put it past them. And I don’t agree with Magiver that this issue is somehow restricted to “Obama’s cronies”… the issue appears to pervade the entire culture. The apparent level of corruption among the Republicans was one of the reasons (IMHO) they were thrown out.

It all sounds simple but it is not. The tax code is so convoluted that if you get beyond the basic W-2 and start getting into K-4’s and such it becomes almost impossible for anybody other than a tax expert to even file an accurate return. Even then, the complexity is such that the people on the government side often don’t understand the code as thoroughly as those that are doing the filing on behalf of their clients. The IRS or state government official will automatically say that the tax is owed. Then what happens is months or years of wrangling over which side accurately interpreted the code. The government will automatically demand penalties and interest which just prolongs the process.

I’ve been through it and it is frustrating as hell. I’ve not done anything to avoid a dime of taxes yet I’ve found myself in quagmires. Just today I got a letter from the IRS admitting that they have recalculated, based on my tax accountant’s appeal, and I get a $108 credit. BFD. I don’t want the $108 dollars, I just want them to quit the harassment. It probably cost thousands of dollars on both sides to get to that point. BTW, the state governments are worse than the Feds.

I can’t do my own taxes due to the complexity. I realize how insane it all is. Therefore, I’m not ready to hang someone on a news report (that has it’s own agenda). Don’t get caught in the trap of simple answers for simple minds. I’m not excusing anybody but I certainly can see how an innocent problem can occur.

I disagree, factually speaking the PRESIDENT didn’t consider this enough of an issue. This was known before Geithner was sworn in and President Obama stood behind him. Since Geithner represents the IRS it’s definitely an option to cut him loose.

Not paying taxes could not be a bigger matter of substance. When a President makes public statements berating bonuses it rings hollow against hiring people who don’t pay their taxes. It’s made worse when one of his campaign platforms was to invite the rich to “pay their fare share”.

If $43,000 was such a tiny amount to the new Treasury Secretary then why didn’t he pay it?

Deliberately avoiding a tax liability is not a glitch. Knowingly hiring such a person to head the IRS is an astronomically bad message to send out. Doing so on top of a campaign message to increase the tax rate on the wealthy is statement that the President’s expectations do not include his friends and cohorts.