TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 924

IRS Logo 2Family Security Matters, Why Lois Lerner and the IRS Scandal Are Not Unique:

Bottom Line Up Front:  Political appointees run the nation's bureaucracies.  Former political appointees who are "burrowed" into the system bolster political ideology and decisions.  Furthermore, those who are hired and promoted by the appointee and/or former appointee in charge of an organization are most probably of similar political ilk.

The IRS scandal was felt heavily by those of us who are retired from federal service.  After having spent decades within the bowels of federal bureaucracies - decades that, for us, were not defined at all by politics - the intentional targeting of Americans of ANY political persuasion came as a horrific shock. 

In our day, civil servants would NEVER have targeted political opponents of the ruling administration. Even if a rogue employee had tried, such actions would never have been tolerated.  Warnings against any defiance of the limitations imposed by the Hatch Act of 1939 kept virtually all civil servants from holding much more than personal political opinions expressed only in private.  Politics were certainly not discussed in the office, let alone acted upon.  Until recently, federal employees were decidedly "non-partisan."

The evidence surrounding the Lois Lerner case has shown us how different our government has become. The initial shock that came with revelations of the extent to which government officials within the IRS had been able to intervene in and delay the processing of specific tax-exempt requests (virtually all of which were from conservative organizations) gave way to outrage following testimony to Congress about the "loss" of emails and other files pertinent to the investigation.  When combined with the disreputable conduct associated with the VA, ATF, EPA, DoE, DoD, GSA, and the highest levels of the State Department, is it any wonder that Americans feel exasperated and retired federal workers feel estranged from the very government they had so long served? 

Question:  What has changed?  Answer:  The manner in which political appointees are filtered into the bureaucracies. ...

This is yet another dilemma that the next President will inherit.  If the process does indeed encourage institutionalized political bias, something must be done about it.  Hopefully the next administration will find a way to end the overt expression of bias by employees who see themselves as political avengers, and terminate the practice that gave us the IRS scandal.

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Comments

This is an interesting propaganda piece. The article is written from the point of view of retired federal workers. However, Family Security Matters is a front group for the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a conservative Washington think tank. Its funding is obscure, with addresses and phone number that change over the short term.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 19, 2015 7:25:11 AM

The federal and most state bureaucracies are staffed with Democrats ( there are exceptions but I don't know where). Public employee unions must be disbanded (I used to run one).

Posted by: frederick edwards | Nov 19, 2015 8:08:21 AM

Publius, care to challenge the content of the article, or are you content to simply attempt to discredit the messenger? Anyone with half a brain and a measure of awareness knows that government employees are predominantly liberal, particularly those in positions of influence and who are willing to let their politics influence their work. Every conservative I know who works in government keeps their mouth shut and their head down.

Alinsky has taught you well...

Posted by: Todd | Nov 19, 2015 9:51:30 AM

The author appears to be unfamiliar with O'Sullivan's Law: any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time. See http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=O%E2%80%99Sullivan%E2%80%99s%20Law

Posted by: AMT buff | Nov 19, 2015 9:59:40 AM

From my conversations with recently retired senior IRS managers, this article is spot on.

Frankly, the only answer may be to fire 50% of the SES staff in all agencies. This problem is larger than the IRS.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Nov 19, 2015 10:34:58 AM

As a former Federal employee, I totally agree with the author of this article. The political appointees are often carbon copies of Lois Lerner who are ruled by their extreme political ideology. The Federal Civil Service needs serious reform: (l) significant reductions in the number of political appointee positions; (2) prohibitions against hiring political appointees as permanent civil servant employees; and (3) total prohibition of Federal employee unions.

Posted by: Bittman | Nov 19, 2015 10:38:08 AM

Publius Novus, your comments are an ad hominem attack. If you have a substantive comment, I'd love to hear it. Signed, Yet another recently retired IRS employee who grew sick and tired of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen's efforts to hide IRS misdeeds

Posted by: Elmer Stoup | Nov 19, 2015 1:27:15 PM

Publius likes to claim nothing happened at the IRS but then here he is making issue over non-Democrat activist groups and their funding and claiming they are not legitimate.

Posted by: wodun | Nov 19, 2015 9:31:04 PM

Every commenter has a perspective, and understanding why a particular group is taking a position is relevant if you are thinking of whether you agree or disagree. Not dispositive - but relevant.

Posted by: Scott | Nov 20, 2015 9:00:49 AM

Mr. edwards: Of course the federal, state, and local bureaucracies are staffed with Democrats. Also Republicans, Greens, unaffiliateds, and Libertarians. We don’t live in Plato’s Republic, nor ought we. But actually, neither the federal, state, nor local bureaucracies is “staffed with Democrats,” at least in the sense you apparently mean. In each of the three levels of government, no party or unaffiliated group constitutes more than 50% of “staff.” The highest affiliation rates are unionized Democrats in state government–46.1%. Unionized Ds in federal employment are 39.5%, which is LOWER than unionized Ds in the private sector–41.9%. Non-unionized Ds in federal employment are 29.3%, as compared to 32.5% R, and 36.3% unaffiliated.

Messrs. Todd, Stroup & wodun: Actually, I did challenge the content. The article is written so as to lead the reader to believe that it is written by a group or representatives of former federal employees (“The IRS scandal was felt heavily by those of us who are retired from federal service. After having spent decades within the bowels of federal bureaucracies . . .”). It is not. As I stated, it is written by a conservative front group. Conservative front groups can write whatever they wish, but should be called out when they attempt to deceive the reader. That was my point. Sorry you missed it.

Mr. AMT buff: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Of course organizations tend to the left wing over time.

Messrs. Spradling & Bittman: There are exactly two political appointees in the IRS (including the Office of Chief Counsel as a part of IRS for your purposes)–the Commissioner and the Chief Counsel. Neither LLerner, nor her subordinate in Cincinnati, nor her immediate bosses were political appointees. While I agree with you that there are far too many political appointees in the federal civil service as a general proposition (DOJ has close to 500, State well over 100), your proposed remedy of “significant reductions in the number of political appointee positions” would have zero effect on the IRS.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 20, 2015 10:04:36 AM