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Originally published January 14, 2009 at 12:45 PM | Page modified January 14, 2009 at 12:47 PM

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Nominees sunk by tax and nanny problems for years

The one excuse President-elect Barack Obama's nominees shouldn't be using if they encounter tax and nanny problems is that they didn't realize there would be a problem. Since 1993, unpaid taxes and immigration violations, usually related to household help, have sunk more than one presidential nominee with the whole world watching. But a few have survived to take office anyway.

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON —

The one excuse President-elect Barack Obama's nominees shouldn't be using if they encounter tax and nanny problems is that they didn't realize there would be a problem. Since 1993, unpaid taxes and immigration violations, usually related to household help, have sunk more than one presidential nominee with the whole world watching. But a few have survived to take office anyway.

ZOE BAIRD - President Bill Clinton's first nominee for attorney general withdrew in 1993 after it was learned that the $500,000-a-year corporate lawyer employed an illegal immigrant Peruvian couple to provide nanny services for her son and chauffeur her around and didn't pay the required Social Security taxes for them. A federal law enacted in the fall of 1986 made it illegal to hire undocumented workers. Her case gave birth to the term "Nannygate."

KIMBA WOOD - Amazingly, just two weeks later, Wood, a federal judge in New York who was expected to be Clinton's second choice for attorney general, withdrew her name. She admitted her baby sitter of seven years had been in the country illegally when hired in March 1986 - before such hiring was against the law. Wood stressed she had broken no laws and had paid all required employment taxes.

CHARLES RUFF - After Baird and Wood, this Washington lawyer and former Justice Department official was removed from Clinton's "short list" of candidates for deputy attorney general after it was learned he failed to pay Social Security taxes for a woman who did domestic work for him one day a week over the previous eight years.

RON BROWN - Clinton's then-newly confirmed commerce secretary acknowledged in 1993 he had not paid Social Security taxes for a woman who cleaned his house three hours a week over four or five years. He said he hadn't thought he owed taxes because she worked so few hours, but he scurried to pay the back taxes and penalties and remained in office.

FEDERICO PENA - Like Brown, Pena had already been confirmed as to his post, transportation secretary in this case, when the Baird case prompted him to acknowledge he failed to pay Social Security taxes for a substitute baby sitter who looked after his two children while their regular caretaker vacationed in 1991. He promised to pay more than $100 in back taxes.

SHIRLEY S. CHATER - Chater, the president of Texas Woman's University was Clinton's nominee to head the Social Security Administration when the White House disclosed on Aug. 3, 1993, that she failed to pay Social Security taxes for a part-time baby sitter from 1969 to 1975. But she had paid the back taxes before her nomination, and she was confirmed.

BOBBY RAY INMAN - The retired Navy admiral withdrew in January 1994 as Clinton's nominee to be defense secretary. Among many reasons, he listed his failure to pay required Social Security taxes for a former part-time housekeeper until just after Clinton nominated him.

STEPHEN BREYER - When Breyer was a nominee for the Supreme Court in mid-1994, it was disclosed that the then-chief judge of the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston had failed to pay Social Security taxes for an 81-year-old U.S. citizen who worked part time in his house for 13 years. Breyer said he did not know he was supposed to pay taxes for the woman until after Baird's case, whereupon he paid the overdue taxes. He was confirmed as a justice of the high court.

MICHAEL P.C. CARNS - The retired Air Force general withdrew in March 1995 as Clinton's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency as he acknowledged failing to make promised payments to a Filipino youth who had worked for the Carns family as a household helper overseas and whom Carns had legally brought into this country when he was transferred back.

LINDA CHAVEZ - The conservative commentator withdrew in January 2001 as President George W. Bush's nominee to be labor secretary after it was disclosed that she gave a Guatemalan woman free room and board in her home and $1,500 during a two-year period in the early 1990s even though Chavez knew she was an illegal immigrant.

BERNARD KERIK - The former New York police commissioner withdrew in December 2004 as Bush's nominee to be homeland security secretary. Amid a rising list of problems with the nomination, Kerik said he was backing out because he discovered he had hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and nanny and failed to pay required employment taxes and make related filings on the worker's behalf.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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