'Nanny' Issue Still Vexes Candidates
Caroline Kennedy's bid to become one of New York's two U.S. senators may have been derailed, in part, because of issues involving a nanny.
If so, she wouldn't be alone.
Immigration status and tax questions involving nannies and in-home caretakers have for years dogged candidates for top government jobs.
Zoe E. Baird, an attorney for Aetna in Connecticut selected by Bill Clinton to be attorney general in 1993, withdrew her name from consideration after it was discovered she and her husband, Yale Law School professor Paul Gewirtz, had hired an undocumented Peruvian couple to serve as her chauffeur and nanny, while also failing to pay their social security taxes.
An unusually strong reaction from the public and Republican lawmakers damaged Baird's chances. Baird, who at the time was a $507,000-per-year corporate attorney, ended up paying $2,900 in fines to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She took full responsibility for the hiring, but said repeatedly that all the arrangements and filing of government forms were handled by Gewirtz.
Clinton's second pick for the attorney general post -- Kimba Wood, a Reagan-nominated federal judge in New York -- withdrew her name after she too admitted to hiring an illegal alien as a nanny.
Wood noted that she did not violate the immigration law in hiring the immigrant, just that the babysitter herself was an illegal worker. She had hired the woman in 1986, before enactment of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. That law made it illegal for employers to hire undocumented workers after June 1, 1988.
Clinton officials said they were frustrated that Wood gave "lawyerly" answers when asked if she had any legal issues to disclose.
"I have fulfilled every legal requirement with respect to the employment of our baby sitter," she said at the time. "Nevertheless, and after further consultation, I have concluded that in the current political environment, proceeding further with the possibility of my nomination would be inappropriate."
(The "nanny issue" became a death knell for Wood, more so than another embarrassing mark on her record: her brief training stint as a Playboy bunny in London. Wood studied at the London School of Economics in 1965-66.)
Washington attorney and ex-Justice Department official Charles Ruff had his name stricken from Clinton's "short list" for deputy attorney general after it was discovered he did not pay Social Security taxes for a woman who worked for him over eight years.
Linda Chavez, former President George W. Bush's original choice to be Labor Secretary, was forced out after she admitted to giving an undocumented Guatemalan woman free housing and $1,500 over two years in the 1990s.
(Chavez wrote about her experience recently for American Spectator, saying, "What a difference eight years make...Reporters camped out on my front lawn, and the issue was the top item on both network and cable news for days. I decided I was becoming a distraction, so I withdrew, holding a press conference with a half dozen other individuals -- most of them immigrants to whom I had given financial assistance or taken into my home over the years.")
Similar troubles arose for six other Clinton appointees: Commerce Secretary Ron Brown; Transportation Secretary Frederico Pena; Social Security Administration Chief Shirley S. Chater; Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer; Defense Secretary nominee Bobby Ray Inman.; and CIA chief nominee Michael P.C. Carns.
Inman, a retired Navy admiral, had to withdraw his name from consideration in 1994 after admitting to, among other things, not paying Social Security taxes for a part-time housekeeper. Carns, a retired Air Force general selected to run the CIA in 1995, brought a Filipino teenager to the United States and failed to pay him properly.
More recently, Bernard Kerik, Bush's original pick for Department of Homeland Security secretary, admitted to hiring an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and nanny and failed to pay required employment taxes for her.
And Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama's choice to run the Treasury Department, disclosed that he had briefly employed a housekeeper who did not have proper employment documentation.
By Derek Kravitz |
January 23, 2009; 7:30 AM ET
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