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'Nanny' Issue Still Vexes Candidates

POSTED: 07:30 AM ET, 01/23/2009 by Derek Kravitz

Caroline Kennedy

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
Previous: Death on Wall Street, Fact and Rumor | Next: 'War' on Terror's Sudden End, Following the TARP Money, Senators Call for Fraud Probes


Please email us to report offensive comments.

It is unbelievable that these people would jeopardize their careers over pennies. They all either have personal wealth or have jobs that pay very well. Maybe one could sympathize with a small businessman or farmer who employees dozens of people and has to cut corners wherever possible to stay competitive, but how sorry can one feel for someone with big bucks who pinches pennies from the pay of one or two individuals; at most they are saving a few thousand a year. Penny wise, pound foolish.

Posted by: csintala79 | January 23, 2009 10:35 AM

I think the real problem is that it is difficult to comply. I just attended a conference that was designed to help Federal Employees spot fake social security cards and passports, so how is an average person supposed to know. If I hire a cleaning lady and they give me a social security number and show me their id and provide references then am I supposed to hire a private investigator to do a thorough background check everytime I hire someone to rake my front lawn?

Posted by: Pepper88 | January 23, 2009 11:13 AM

Is he just plain stupid or was he trying to avoid taxes? He actually signed a document explaining his tax situation, and then he didn't pay his taxes until he was caught. Then after paying them he again didn't pay them until the Obama vetting team told him ---oops---you didn't pay them ,again!!!

Timothy Geithner is a disgrace as a Cabinet choice. Change--Is the type change President Obama wants?? If this his only/best nominee that this Country needs so desperately to solve our problems.

A new day---NOT! Ignorance of the law is no excuse. A lawbreaker in charge of the Internal Revenue whose laws he broke. The mind reels.

Posted by: passonfirstdown | January 23, 2009 11:19 AM

What is the thing that ends up being the bar to confirmation -- the hiring of an illegal worker, or the failure to pay the taxes? I have sympathy for the first (for a number of reasons), but no sympathy for folks who don't pay their taxes.

Posted by: blueiguana2001 | January 23, 2009 12:09 PM

Inman did not withdraw because of a housekeeper issue. He withdrew due to substantive concerns. He held a rather well-publicized press conference where he made his reasons quite clear. You can probably find it on YouTube, Google or Wiki.

Posted by: crbjornson | January 23, 2009 1:27 PM

The hard part is PAYING the taxes! We have a nanny when we couldn't get into a day care center, and complying is a real pain. After all, we aren't a business, but we have to get a business tax id, and that's just the first step. You have to make sure you withhold enough from your own paycheck, you have to pay the state unemployment, Social Security, and IRS. You have to have a bunch of passwords, which you only use on occasion. What is you get home late-- should you pay the nanny a few extra bucks off the books? Of course, you can pay a 3rd party parts of the hassle, but it is still a fair amount of paperwork and easy to screw up.

Last year: I overpaid!

Posted by: emrj | January 23, 2009 1:29 PM

Tsk, tsk, tsk. The trials and tribulations of the rich and famous. Did it ever occur to them to stay home and take care of their own kids and do their own housework?

Posted by: Baltimore11 | January 23, 2009 1:48 PM

My question is,what is wrong with hiring legal alien residents, if these peoples' preference is to have foreign nannies and housekeepers? Seems that the wealthy see nothing wrong with paying minimum wage for first class service and on top of that, shamelessly dodge their tax responsibilities. uh uh is that called robbing the IRS, taking advantage of the underprivileged, or what?

Posted by: richglo638 | January 23, 2009 3:54 PM

Actually it is often difficult to to comply and not just for the reasons posted by crbjornson (we hire a third party service to take care of the paperwork and taxes - so maybe we sometimes overpay but it is worth no having the aggravation to comply with the paperwork requirements). We are not rich so we both have to work. Maybe emrj is rich and can afford to stay home but we can't so we both work (and we only have 1 car, we have only a small 10yr old TV, my wife takes public transportation to work, and we live in a small 2 br. house). We advertised on Craigslist for nannies but at least half the responses were from foreigners, almost all of whom didn't wish to provide employment documentation but worse, almost every one of the american citizens or legal permanent residents who responded to the ad wanted to be paid under the table. Our requirement that everything must be done legally and above the table left us to choose from less than 10% of the people responding to the ad.

Posted by: TonyDE | January 23, 2009 5:09 PM

Baltimore11 -

If the best solution to figuring out how to hire child care and house help is to give up and forgo your own career so you can do those things yourself, we have a REAL problem in this country.

Posted by: cqjudge | January 23, 2009 5:14 PM

Problem is if you can find someone you can hire for this type of work ; they REFUSE to pay their own taxes!

Then that puts you on the hook for paying their SSN taxes if the amount is more than $1000 each quarter. Then the Local government sees that you are paying that then they want to hit you up too. THen their is UNEMPLOYMENT tax to pay as well, then your Insurance company wants to charge you a different rate because you have hire an au pied or Nanny in your home!. The whole thing is a round & round MESS for the homeowner and the (in generally) lowly paid worker. Then if the person doesn't work out you may have to do this 3-4 times per year with different people.

Does the US Government wonder why their is NO COMPLIANCE from even the most educated of Attorneys in the USA!!!

The Government should make it the RESPONSIBILITY of the worker to be in compliance not the Homeowner.. after all who is getting the $$$$ ?

Posted by: digtldesk | January 23, 2009 6:08 PM

I guess if there's any chance you want to be in politics, make sure you were never an actor, model or artist of any kind, because according to the author it might be considered embarrassing. Then make sure that you go out of your way to pay whatever fines you may owe due to this issue. Don't get caught with your pants down.

Posted by: digtalcomp | January 23, 2009 6:33 PM

This"investigation" just emphasizes the need to give "amnesty" aka fair, decent treatment to people who are here without papers but just want to work and support themselves/their families. The well-to-do who hire them, in the vast majority of cases (and contrary to a comment, above, are paying them well and in turn getting good workers.

In many cases the workers have been in the U.S. for years and years, have children who are citizens, are not felons, speak decent English and in short are just the kind of people we need and the Statue of Liberty beckons to. We need to treat them like we would like to be treated were we in their shoes.

And it should not be a bar to public office is one has hired an undocumented worker.

Posted by: bezvodka | January 23, 2009 7:34 PM

they need to practice what they preach, I wonder just how many more are doing this not paying social security taxs an such now we know why its failing.if it was you are I and got caught we would be looking at jail time.the very ones who are to keep america strong are the very ones eroding it

Posted by: alexgma | January 29, 2009 11:53 PM

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