First it was Geraldine Ferraro. Then, George Bush.
Now the clamor for full disclosure has descended on George Bush's "janitor," not to mention his "chauffeur" -- all because of what Walter Mondale said during the debate with Ronald Reagan.
Attacking the president's tax program Sunday night, Mondale claimed that Bush, "in 1983, as a result of these tax preferences . . . paid a little over 12 percent, 12.8 percent in taxes. That meant that he paid a lower percentage in taxes than the janitor who cleaned up his office or the chauffeur who drives him to work."
Yesterday, the morning after, with much of the federal government off for Columbus Day, a few people were scrambling to find the janitor and the chauffeur.
"There's a Filipino steward who cleans his office. I think his first name is Domingo. But I can't tell you anything about Domingo, and I can't find anybody who can tell you about Domingo," said Shirley Green of the vice president's press staff. "After all, it's a holiday. Why don't we all go home?"
While Domingo seemed to be keeping himself incommunicado, perhaps the better to avoid questions about his tax bill, cleaning woman Mary Curry was reached at home. She said that until last year, when she was transferred to another floor of the Executive Office Building, she regularly tidied up the anterooms of Bush's second-floor sanctum.
Curry said she earned $14,726 in 1983 and claimed an exemption for her 9-year-old son. That would have made her tax bill $1,568 that year, or 10.6 percent of her income.
While that was a smaller percentage than Bush's reported payment of $18,305 on his 1983 income of $142,117, Curry, a Mondale supporter, was not impressed. "I really feel that all the rich people pay less taxes than we poor people," she said. "The rich people get all their tax money paid off of us poor people."
She added, "I wasn't allowed to go into Bush's office. He had a Chinese fellow to do that" -- apparently another reference to the elusive Domingo.
The overtaxed chauffeur was also hard to find. Indeed, Jack Smith of the Secret Service said there is no vice presidential chauffeur.
"The driving is done by anywhere from 10 to 12 different agents on a rotating basis," Smith said. "All of them are trained in different areas of expertise. So today one agent may be doing the driving and tomorrow he may be doing something else."
Smith said the agents, whom he declined to produce for an interview, are classified as grade GS-12 civil servants, with salaries ranging from $30,549 to $39,711 a year, according to a recent government schedule. As for their tax bills, Smith said, "I think you should be talking to H&R Block rather than me."
An employe at H&R Block said that a married Secret Service agent filing separately and taking only a standard deduction would have paid $7,977 (or 26 percent) on an income of $30,549, and $11,849 (or 29.8 percent) on an income of $39,711 -- percentages substantially larger than that paid by the man they drive.
But another vice presidential driver, Byung Kim -- who said he ferries documents, not people, between Bush's office and the Senate -- seems to have paid a smaller percentage.
"I am a naturalized citizen, and I don't want to get in trouble," said the Korean-born driver when asked about his taxes. "Do I have to tell you?"
Assured that he did not, Kim nevertheless volunteered that his 1983 gross adjusted income was about $24,000. With exemptions for his wife and two sons, that would have put his tax bill (which he couldn't remember exactly) at about $2,600, or 10.8 percent -- a smaller percentage than Bush paid that year.
Green, meanwhile, called Mondale's debating point "a very cheap shot." Noting that Bush paid higher percentages in 1981 and 1982, and that his relatively low 1983 tax payment was the result of tax-deductible legal expenses that year, she said, "The vice president is just like any other American. He's entitled by the tax code to deduct his expenses."