TaxProf Blog

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

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1115

IRS Logo 2Roll Call op-ed:  Impeachment of IRS Chief Is a Serious Misstep, by Stephen M. Ryan (McDermott Will & Emery, Washington, D.C.):

On November 9, 2017, well into the Clinton or Trump Administration, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s term will expire. Koskinen, like FBI Director James Comey, is a Senate-confirmed executive who has a term of office making him independent of the president’s term. Koskinen will be lauded at that time as a man of integrity who not only kept the IRS on life support while under constant attack but who provided the necessary leadership and integrity to drive the agency forward to better serve taxpayers.

Impeachment of federal office holders is reserved for those who commit high crimes or misdemeanors. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives seems determined to have a go at Koskinen for reasons that are political and unworthy of impeachment. ... Koskinen is an exemplary public official. He should be getting an award for his service, not this type of attention. He has not done anything wrong personally. Impeachment in the absence of crimes or unethical behavior, none of which has occurred here, is a dangerous precedent that has not been part of the U.S. experience and could dissuade experienced, competent executives like Koskinen from accepting appointment to senior management positions within government. ...

In essence, the claim is he failed to respond to lawfully issued congressional subpoenas and engaged in “a pattern of deception” in statements pertaining to the IRS production of emails, and failed to act with competence in overseeing the investigation into IRS’s treatment of conservative groups. The proponents’ case that Koskinen committed high crimes and misdemeanors depends upon issues he did not control. But Koskinen wasn’t even at the IRS when the scandal occurred, and he certainly was not leading the search for documents to respond to congressional requests. Republican members of Congress are rightfully upset that IRS employees in West Virginia magnetically erased hundreds of backup tapes in March 2014, destroying some of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails. While IRS recycling the backup tapes was dumb as a bag of hammers, Koskinen did not engage in that activity.

Can these alleged transgressions by the IRS be attributed to the new commissioner or rise to the level of an impeachable offense by him or contempt of Congress? Clearly, the answer is no. ...

Koskinen is what he appears to be — an exemplary public servant who heads an agency in disarray; while his 76-year-old peers are fishing or golfing. People with Koskinen’s skill-set are incredibly hard to find in public service. One can only hope that this impeachment resolution — and the personal nature of its assertions — won’t cause others to turn away from public service, depriving the government of the seasoned, competent executives that it desperately needs.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/05/the-irs-scandal-day-1115.html

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Comments

All points well-made and well-taken. Thank you, Mr. Ryan.

Posted by: Publius Novus | May 28, 2016 6:28:57 AM

I could not agree more. Well said.

Posted by: gator | May 29, 2016 4:49:11 AM

PN and Gator: I'd love for you to argue your POV with a bunch of recently retired IRS executives. Its too bad they have to sign a two-year "tell no stories" agreement when they retire.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | May 29, 2016 1:17:08 PM