Probing Tom Daschle's `Wife Problem'. (Washington in Brief)

Article excerpt

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) may have presidential ambitions; if so, he had best be prepared for the flak that accompanies ventures of that sort. For instance, there's the aircraft-safety scandal featuring charges of cover-up and interference that, though covered in some press and TV reports, has not yet exploded into a national fixation.

In 1994, three federal-government doctors were killed in the crash of a chartered plane operated by a firm owned by a close friend of Daschle and his wife, Linda. As summed up in a recent story on, Daschle directly interceded to get federal safety inspectors to back off of close scrutiny of his pal's fleet, which had been cited for numerous safety violations.

The inspectors were with the U.S. Forest Service, a client of the charter firm. Having leaned on their supervisors, Daschle then introduced legislation stripping the Forest Service of aircraft-inspection duties, handing that task to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). At the time, the FAA was headed by Daschle's wife, a former airline-association executive.

An FAA inspector claims she was told to destroy any documents that might link the Daschles to the matter. So far, Congress has not found itself compelled to look into the Daschles' apparent effort to aid a close friend and the possibly dire consequences with regard to airline safety. Since that time, other links between the Daschles and the airline industry have taken shape. To that extent, Washington Monthly describes Linda Daschle's lobbying relationships as the Senate majority leader's "Hillary problem." That's in part due to her work on behalf of American Airlines, a firm that has fought against increased government safety and security regulations in recent years. Sen. Daschle supported efforts to water down federal safety proposals despite American Airline's tainted record of violations and fatal crashes, and he was a prime player in obtaining $583 million in bailout funds for American Airlines that won't ever be repaid to taxpayers. …