Last straw for IRS should lead to special counsel
John Koskinen, a former president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, probably would rather spend his time following the FIFA World Cup from Brazil instead of preparing for another round of questions from congressional inquisitors.
In truth, it’s tough to get too excited for Koskinen’s upcoming testimony, which started Friday with the House Ways and Means Committee.
Koskinen, who leads the Internal Revenue Service as its appointed commissioner, already misled Congress once on the subject of former IRS official Lois Lerner and her disappearing email.
The IRS is accused of targeting nonprofit applicants with “tea party” or other right-leaning identifiers in their names for heightened scrutiny. Lerner once led the division that handles applications for tax-exempt status. She has refused to testify, beyond asserting her innocence, wielding her Fifth Amendment shield against self-incrimination.
With her silence, members of Congress — and, one presumes, the Justice Department investigators supposedly looking for potential crimes — hoped her emails from roughly 2009-11 would shed some light on who was involved in the targeting and whether the idea originated outside the IRS.
No such luck, apparently.
Despite having requests and then subpoenas for more than a year, the IRS revealed only last Friday that Lerner’s email communications with anyone outside the tax-collecting agency vanished in a 2011 hard-drive crash, with recovery impossible.
This, despite federal retention laws and the IRS’ own regulations.
This is curious on two fronts.
For one, the IRS apparently knew in February it couldn’t locate about 50,000 Lerner emails from 2009-11.
Second, Koskinen testified in March that while the subpoena was “too broad,” the IRS could produce the emails if Congress was willing to wait “months or years.”
Oh, and the too-convenient-by-half computer disaster must have been one for the ages, since similar crashes wiped out relevant emails from six other agency officials. (On the bright side, this might be an excuse worth remembering for your next IRS audit: “Sorry, fellas, computer crash!”)
If there were a last straw to this mess, wouldn’t this be it?
It’s almost impossible to overstate the seriousness of an IRS accused of using its immense power to discriminate against groups based on ideology.
Conservatives shouldn’t stand alone in their anger; imagine the same circumstances with a Republican, instead of Democratic Barack Obama, in the White House.
Obama, unfortunately, undermined the Justice Department’s supposedly continuing investigation — led by a lawyer who contributed to Obama’s presidential campaigns — by declaring with certainty in February that “not even a smidgen of corruption” was behind this scandal.
The transparent evasion of the lost Lois Lerner emails, almost an insult to credulous Americans, should embarrass the Obama administration into doing what it should have done all along. Which is to name a special counsel to provide the only independent investigation that will satisfy those Americans who still want to have faith in their federal government.
— Dallas Morning News
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