TaxProf Blog

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

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1248

IRS Logo 2The Atlantic, The Conservative Crusade Against the IRS Commissioner:

Feeling wrung out by the grossness of the presidential race, the hurricane buffeting the East Coast, and the nationwide epidemic of scary clowns? Buck up, camper, and at least be thankful that you are not IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Heading the most loathed agency in the federal government takes a psychic toll on a good day. But the past 17 months or so have been a pig pile of lousy days for Koskinen, as conservatives have led a multi-pronged crusade to publicly humiliate him, drive him from office, and strip him of his pension. On September 21, shortly before Congress fled town for the remainder of election, Koskinen had to go before the House Judiciary Committee for a formal impeachment hearing.

Then, last week, the dark-money group 45Committee announced that it was dropping more than $1 million on ads lobbying for the commissioner’s ouster. “Call the House of Representatives and tell them to vote to impeach Commissioner Koskinen now,” urges the spot, which presents impeachment as the last, best hope for beating back “the arrogance of the Obama administration.”

What did Koskinen do to deserve all this? It’s complicated. The roots of conservatives’ outrage lie in the 2013 revelation that the IRS had improperly scrutinized Tea Party groups (among others) seeking tax-exempt status. An FBI probe found no evidence of “enemy hunting.” But conservatives have been super miffed at the agency ever since.

“The government went after people for their political beliefs,” fumes Rep. Jim Jordan, head of the House Freedom Caucus, which has made Koskinen’s impeachment a pet cause. ‘This is not just any old agency,” Jordan reminded me. “This is the IRS. Most people get a letter from the IRS, they sit down, wipe their brow, and their resting heart rate suddenly gets higher. Now we know that they systematically targeted people for their political persuasion.” ...

The Treasury Department’s Inspector General ruled the loss of the tapes an unintentional screw up. Conservatives have decided nonetheless that Koskinen must go. The commissioner has been hauled before multiple committees multiple times in both chambers of Congress. House Republicans have accused him of arrogance, dishonesty, obstruction, foot-dragging, and being generally unhelpful in their investigation. Last October, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, head of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee, introduced a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings. ...

At this point, Jordan doesn’t much care whether the destruction of the backup tapes was part of a cover up or simply the result of incompetence. “No one is saying this was all intentional,” Jordan assured me. “But where was the gravity of the situation?” He also acknowledges that Koskinen is not at fault for the original targeting offense. Impeachment advocates, however, really feel that someone’s head needs to roll. “It was political speech they targeted,” marveled Jordan. “And for no one to be held accountable?”

Even so, impeaching a public official is like going nuclear: a measure reserved for the very worst transgressions. ...

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/10/the-irs-scandal-day-1248.html

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink

Comments

Koskinen has lied, denied, obfuscated, delayed and spit in the face of congress and the American people at every turn. I don't care what this butt-kisser says. Mr. Magoo needs to go. And if the GOP doesn't impeach him they'll show the world how gutless they've become.

Posted by: VoteOutIncumbents | Oct 8, 2016 8:42:15 AM

But the past 17 months or so have been a pig pile of lousy days for Koskinen, as conservatives have led a multi-pronged crusade to publicly humiliate him, drive him from office, and strip him of his pension.

That isn't Republicans fault. Its Koskinen's fault. This article is like having sympathy for a murderer because the cops arrested him.

Posted by: wodun | Oct 8, 2016 8:52:45 PM

I actually enjoy some of the Atlantic's articles, but their editorial bent on this issue just strikes me as phoned in. Leaving aside the fact that there's nary a mention of the pattern of false public statements by both Lerner and Koskinen, this remark stood out:

"The Treasury Department’s Inspector General ruled the loss of the tapes an unintentional screw up. Conservatives have decided nonetheless that Koskinen must go."

The writer of the article takes this at face value, as did TIGTA, that it was just a mistake, and by extension Koskinen is an innocent victim of circumstance. The IRS employees in question claimed they didn't realize the cease and desist order included the destruction of backup tapes, but the order that came from the IRS Chief Technology Officer was, verbatim:

https://congress.gov/congressional-report/114th-congress/house-report/635/1

"Given the current environment and ongoing investigations, do not destroy/wipe-reuse any of the existing backup tapes for email, or archiving of other information from IRS personal computers. Further, do not reuse or refresh or wipe information from any personal computer that is being reclaimed/returned/refreshed/updated from any employee or contractor of the IRS. Finally, effective immediately, the email retention policy for backups is to be indefinite rather than 6 months."

And there's no evidence that anyone was ever disciplined for failing to carry out instructions that grade schoolchildren could understand. The notion that every instance of IRS wrongdoing from the beginning has been an unfortunate accident boggles the mind. Given that IRS officials have been caught making numerous false statements with no consequences as of yet, why should any reasonable person believe the official line of excuse?

Posted by: MM | Oct 9, 2016 10:23:26 PM