Freelancers who've wrestled with local business tax rules know they're a confusing mess. But then, most freelancers aren't married to Gregory Craig, the White House lawyer in charge of sorting through these kinds of messes.

Craig was brought in to vet Obama's nominees in order to head off distracting questions about back taxes. But he should have started a lot closer to home. At home, actually. His artsy wife Derry Noyes runs Noyes Graphics, a business which designs stamps for the Postal Service, from their D.C. home. As Gawker reported last week, its legal status is uncertain. D.C. officials can't find any record of it, and they've launched an investigation.

Now, a friend of Noyes who claims to have spoken to her says she has the proper paperwork. Georgetown law professor Stephen Cohen, whose friendship with the Craigs dates back to the '60s, has offered a defense of Noyes on a tax blog. But it is, itself, a confusing mess.

First, Cohen maintained that Noyes owed no taxes and did not require a license. He detailed several forms of licenses, but didn't mention the home occupation permit which a D.C. official contacted by Gawker says Noyes should have — and lacks.

Cohen then wrote that he had spoken to Noyes and she'd told him she had registered her business in D.C. and paid the franchise taxes — despite city officials' statements that they had absolutely no record of her business seeking any licenses, registrations, or permits.

"Academics have a particular responsibility to verify allegations that may be false before spreading them," Cohen writes. We could not agree more.

Joseph Culligan, the bloggy private eye who has posted documents about Noyes on, has gotten an email from a D.C. official confirming that the business lacks at least one required permit, according to their records. The city's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is scheduled to investigate Noyes Graphics this week.

In order to file local business taxes in D.C., you need to first register as a business. But the real issue here is not that Craig may have some unpaid taxes, or that his wife may be running an improperly permitted business. It would not be shocking if D.C.'s city government kept shoddy records. The investigation may well clear their name.

But how did these issues go completely unscrutinized before Craig got his White House job — and got put in charge of scrutinizing other potential Obama lieutenants? And how is it that a befuddled professor is the only one speaking up in their defense? If a simple search of public records turned up so many questions about Craig, it's fair to ask if he has any business vetting candidates himself.