Looking at the way the traditional media has covered the recent stories concerning both Tom Daschle and Michael Steele, it is evident that a double standard exists.
What Daschle did was underreport his income by not taxing the benefits of a personal driver provided by someone he was maintaining a business relationship with. At worst, he broke IRS rules and as such is subject to a fine plus interest which he paid when he amended his tax returns. Steele, on the other hand, engaged in two frauds, paying for services not rendered AND reporting that the services he paid for were actually performed.
Speaking in his defense, Steele opted for the "shoot the messenger" defense, slamming his accuser as a "convicted felon." What Steele omitted in that description was that the accuser, Alan Fabian, once served as Steele’s campaign finance director during Steele’s failed 2006 run against Ben Cardin for U.S. Senate.
The Washington Post reported that Fabian was accused of orchestrating multimillion-dollar frauds unrelated to the campaign, according to a confidential court document.
Hoping prosecutors would recommend a lighter sentence, Fabian provided them with information about Steele and said he would be willing to testify against him, according to the document, a sentencing memorandum prepared by Fabian’s attorney and filed under seal in the fall before Fabian’s sentencing in federal court. The U.S. attorney’s office did not recommend a shorter prison term, and Fabian was sentenced in October to nine years behind bars.
Steele is accused of paying his sister and a firm she established for work she did not do. In plain English (which Steele supported as being the OFFICIAL LANGUAGE of the state of Maryland) he is continuing the upstanding Republican tradition of funneling slush fund money to supporters, or in his case, to a family member.
In the defense memorandum, Fabian cited four specific transactions. In addition to the payment to Steele’s sister, Fabian said that the candidate used money from his state campaign improperly, that Steele paid $75,000 from the state campaign to a law firm for work that was never performed and that Steele or an aide transferred more than $500,000 in campaign cash from one bank to another without authorization.
A spokesman for Steele refuted the allegations. Moreover, the spokesman, Curt Anderson, said the payment in question was unrelated to the inquiry. Additionally, Anderson noted that Steele had the authority to transfer the money from one campaign account to another.
However, supporters of Steele’s former running mate, ex-governor Robert Ehrlick Jr., insisted that the money was only for state campaign related activiites. More importantly, Ehrlick’s allies were furious because they had raised the bulk of the money and hoped it would be used to support OTHER Republican candidates statewide and not be used as a slush fund by Steele.
Campaign records indicate that $37,262 paid to Brown Sugar Unlimited covered catering and Web services. But it came 11 months after Turner, a pediatrician who lives in Potomac, had legally dissolved the company.
Steele said that not paying his sister for her work would have been a violation of campaign finance law. He criticized The Post for publishing a story where "there is no story" and said he provided receipts to prove the expenses were legitimate. On Friday, a spokesman for Steele provided a receipt for catering costs totaling almost $15,000 for two events, about half the total. The spokesman said they were searching for receipts to document the rest.
George Stephenopolis, the host of This Week on ABC, questioned Steele yesterday about the fact that Steele presented a payment to his sister to a company that no longer existed.
"That, I don’t know about. What I do know about is the fact that, as she understood it, the company was still in existence. Her lawyers were telling her they were in the process of dissolving the company, so at the time when the checks were written back to her to reimburse her, she just said, ‘Go ahead and write the checks to the company,’ because the company had, you know, done the services that were provided."
According to Reporter Henri Colvin, Anderson said Turner "did a lot of media stuff" for the campaign.
He later provided a copy of an invoice for nearly $15,000 for catering services for one event in October 2006 and for another in July 2007. The invoice was dated December 2006, a discrepancy Anderson said was a typographical error.
Federal election law permits a candidate’s family members to be paid for work on a campaign. Any compensation must be for actual services and must be at a fair market rate.
In contrast, Daschle filed amended tax returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007 to reflect additional income for consulting work, the use of a car service and reductions in charitable contribution deductions. He filed the returns after the announcement that Obama intended to nominate him to head HHS.
One reason for the focus on Daschle’s amended returns is that a similar issue over the use of a personal driver forced NY State Comptroller AlAllan Hevesian Hevesi to resign 2006.
Hevesi was accused of using government services ( a driver) for his wife, who suffers from dementia. Former GOP presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani was accused of similar behavior, using NYPD personnel to drive then girlfriend Judith Nathan around Manhattan when Giuliani was mayor.
One difference between Hevesi and Daschle is that Hevesi’s transgressions were done on the dime of NY State taxpayers as he was using the driver provided as a perk of being NY State Comptroller. Daschle, on the other hand, merely created the appearance of impropriety because the driver was provided free of charge by a lobbyist whom Daschle was consulting for.
What Daschle did was stupid. Was it as clueless as Treasury Secretary Geitner underpaying his taxes? No, but unfortunately for Daschle, timing is everthing as details of his tax issue were revealed AFTER Geitner.
Moreover, IMO the Daschle nomination was not squashed by this news since the chummy club that is the Senate seems to have a completely different set of rules for its members and ex members than the rest of us. Basically, the Daschle nomination was dead in the water when TPM Muckrackerreported Daschle’s links to lobbyists.
The nomination of Steele to head the Republican National Committee is problematic for a myriad of reasons. He was chosen because the two of the other contenders for the post were basically KKK holdovers. One distributed a CD to prominent Republicans with songs like Barack the Magic Negro and the Star Spanglished Banner." The other candidate announced that he had been a life long Republican due to that party’s opposition to desegregation.
So the GOP picked an African American to put a nice face on the blatantly racist history of the modern Republican Party. TheGOPocrites also picked a man that falsely tried to present himself TWICE to Maryland voters as a Democrat, thereby tricking voters(mainly African Americans) into supporting a man whose views they likely found repugnant.
In other words, the GOP selected a man that feels so weakly in his political convictions that the only chance that he might have in getting elected is to hoodwink voters into believing that he shares the same beliefs as they do.
Over the years, money trouble has been a persistent problem for Steele. His first race for public office, a 1998 bid for the Republican nomination for state comptroller, ended nearly $35,000 in debt, much of it to his sister. He was fined twice by state officials for missing deadlines to file campaign finance reports and was in debt and had faced foreclosure in 2001, the year before he was selected as Ehrlich’s running mate. The state party threw Steele a financial lifeline, awarding him an unusual $30,000 consulting contract.
This diary was originally posted on Daily Kos under my other pseudonym, Dirk McQuigley.