Paul L. Caron
Dean


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1140

IRS Logo 2The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing today on Examining the Allegations of Misconduct Against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Part II:

  • Todd Garvey (Legislative Attorney, Library of Congress) (testimony)
  • Michael Gerhardt (Professor, North Carolina) (testimony)
  • Andrew McCarthy (Former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York) (testimony)
  • Jonathan Turley (Professor, George Washington) (testimony)

Bloomberg, IRS Chief Koskinen Fights First Appointee Impeachment Since 1876, by Lynnley Browning:

Impeachment is “the wrong symbol, the wrong act,” said Fred Goldberg, who served as IRS commissioner under Republican President George H.W. Bush. “‘It is both destructive and counterproductive.”

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear from legal scholars and a former prosecutor on whether impeachment-drive leaders can meet legal standards for impeaching Koskinen. The panel is not expected to vote on an actual impeachment resolution, and neither House nor Senate leaders have endorsed the impeachment push. ...

If it succeeded, Koskinen would be the first appointed executive-branch official impeached since 1876, the year Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. And he’d be the only such official below the level of cabinet secretary to receive that dubious distinction. ...

The U.S. constitution says the president, vice president “and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Witnesses set to testify at Wednesday’s hearing disagree on how that might apply to Koskinen’s case.

Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, said impeachment is possible even without a finding of criminal conduct -- though he said he takes “a broader view on impeachment than some of my colleagues.”

Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, said he doesn’t believe “gross negligence” constitutes grounds for impeachment. “My concern is that the impeachment resolution would be lowering the constitutional standard,” Gerhardt said. “It’s lower than what the framers of the constitution had in mind.”

A series of federal investigations into the IRS scandal faulted the agency for ineptness, but cleared it of criminal wrongdoing. In January 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had found no evidence of bias that would warrant criminal charges. The Justice Department in October ended its own probe, which found “substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia,” but resulted in no charges.

“There wasn’t control of the document retention process,” said Mark Everson, who served as IRS commissioner from 2003 to 2007 under President George W. Bush. Complying with the congressional subpoenas “wasn’t handled correctly, and you can’t get out of that,” said Everson, who said he does not think impeachment is warranted.

IRS commissioners weren’t always the most disliked bureaucrats at the most-hated agency. There used to be “greater mutual respect between the IRS and congressional committees,” said Mortimer Caplin, 99, who headed the agency during President John F. Kennedy’s administration.

Now, the rancor evident in the impeachment push makes it difficult for the administration and Congress to work together on important legislation -- including efforts to overhaul and streamline the federal tax code, said Sheldon Cohen, a former IRS commissioner under President Lyndon Johnson. “The adversarial relationship makes tax reform almost impossible,” he said.

USA Today editorial, IRS Impeachment Overkill:

Commissioner Koskinen doesn't deserve this.

With their customary lack of subtlety, House Republicans are trying to unleash a nuclear bomb to swat the proverbial fly. The fly is IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The bomb is impeachment, which has been used against an executive-branch official only three times in the nation’s history.

The allegations against Koskinen, while serious, do not rise anywhere near the level of becoming a fourth historic case. An impeachment resolution — which the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on Wednesday — would diminish what's supposed to be a last-resort option for removing a corrupt official for alleged “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The IRS scandal does not qualify; for one thing, Koskinen, 76, wasn't even at the IRS when the underlying scandal occurred.

By overplaying their hand, the Republicans are obscuring serious questions about IRS misuse of its immense power. Koskinen was brought in to clean up the agency after revelations in 2013 that its tax-exempt division had targeted conservative organizations, including Tea Party groups, because of their political beliefs. The IRS sent the groups burdensome inquiries and delayed their applications for tax exemption, stopped some from participating in the 2012 presidential election.

While the IRS has a legitimate role in preventing blatantly political groups from exploiting tax-exempt status, targeting groups based on their politics is reminiscent of Richard Nixon using the IRS to harass his "enemies." Even President Obama acknowledged that such actions were “intolerable and inexcusable.” The scandal spurred congressional hearings, high-level resignations from the IRS and an FBI investigation, which found no criminal wrongdoing.

When Koskinen took over the agency, there was a need for openness and disclosure to get to the bottom of what happened. Instead, Koskinen presided over a “clean-up” marked by disappearing emails, bungled searches for backups, and a penchant for secrecy so strong that the IRS has resisted federal court orders to disclose documents to the groups targeted. ...

Republicans have good reason to press for release of relevant IRS documents, such as lists of the 426 targeted groups and emails by retired IRS official Lois Lerner, who was at the center of the controversy. But an official censure of Koskinen last week on a party-line vote of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the looming impeachment threat, are as misplaced as Republicans’ draconian cuts to the IRS budget. As the agency has struggled to do more with less, customer service has withered, identity theft has run rampant and reduced enforcement has allowed tax cheats to get away with more cheating.

If Congress wants to be helpful, it should simplify the absurdly complex tax code and give the IRS enough money to do its job, not waste time on overblown impeachment threats.

Fox News op-ed: Congress, Impeach IRS Chief and Hold Him Accountable for Targeting Scandal Coverup, by Jenny Beth Martin (Co-founder, Tea Party Patriots):

Three years after President Obama said wrongdoers involved in the IRS political persecution scandal should be held "fully accountable," no one has been held accountable.  Aside from Lois Lerner -- whom Obama's Department of Justice refuses to prosecute -- no one exemplifies the wrongdoing at the IRS more than its current commissioner, John Koskinen.

The House Judiciary Committee will vote this week on whether or not to impeach Koskinen; they should do so and the full House should follow and then the Senate should convict him, if there's any rule of law left in America. ...

Far from being chastened after getting caught red-handed in the first targeting scandal, the IRS seems almost emboldened to continue the targeting after getting away with flouting the law. During the initial phase of targeting, the IRS went to great lengths to cover its tracks. Records were purged, files were deleted, emails were mysteriously lost, and, incredibly, computer servers allegedly vanished into thin air. ...

Impeachment is, of course, an extraordinary measure and should be reserved only for the most egregious misconduct. In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton explained that impeachment is appropriate to address “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Mr. Koskinen’s disregard for the rule of law meets Hamilton’s exacting requirements for impeachment. In fact, Koskinen’s misconduct demandsimpeachment if we are to restore the public trust and move past the IRS’s wholesale disregard for the Constitution.

The Hill, Bush Lawyer Rips GOP for Trying to 'Intimidate' IRS:

George W. Bush's former chief ethics lawyer is slamming congressional Republicans for trying to “intimidate” the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Richard Painter, who is now a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said the House should not pass a resolution to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the measure last week on a party-line vote.

“This is essentially a dispute between the IRS and Members of Congress about the 501c4 organizations that further the objectives of political campaigns, including campaigns of Members of Congress,” Painter said in a letter to Oversight Committee members.

“The IRS is charged with determining whether the activities of these organizations comply with the Internal Revenue Code and it is not proper for Congress to seek to intimidate the IRS in the discharge of its duties,” he added.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/06/the-irs-scandal-day-1140.html

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink

Comments

"The Justice Department in October ended its own probe, which found 'substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia.'"

Imagine an insurance company in which a particular department was found to have treated a subset of its customers in unfair, perhaps even discriminitory ways. Then I'm brought in by the boss to clean up the department. And in the process, it's discovered by company auditors during the ensuing investigation that I hadn't changed much of anything, gave false statements, and evidence was destroyed. I'm fairly confident the boss would've fired me in a heartbeat.

These excuses justifying public sector wrongdoing wouldn't fly for 5 minutes in the private sector. The President should've fired this clown 18 months ago. Impeachment is a toothless response, but it's the only response left, along with cutting the budget.

Posted by: MM | Jun 22, 2016 7:43:28 AM

If it succeeded, Koskinen would be the first appointed executive-branch official impeached since 1876, the year Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. And he’d be the only such official below the level of cabinet secretary to receive that dubious distinction.

That says something about the unprecedented actions of the Obama administration and his hand picked ringmaster of corruption and obstruction, Koskinen.

Posted by: wodun | Jun 22, 2016 9:34:14 PM