House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and 18 other members of the committee this week introduced articles of impeachment against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
As Chairman Chaffetz noted, the IRS under Commissioner Koskinen has failed to serve taxpayers and misled Congress and the American people:
“Commissioner Koskinen violated the public trust. He failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled.”
“The process of impeachment was placed into our Constitution so that members of the executive branch and the judiciary–including the president–could be removed from office when they violate their oath of office,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “There is no point in expecting the Obama Justice Department to discipline its own political misconduct. That task is assigned — by the Constitution — to Congress.”
Following the revelations that the IRS had been applying improper, politically motivated scrutiny to tea party and conservative organizations, Koskinen was appointed head of the agency promising reform and transparency.
Unfortunately, Koskinen has been caught repeatedly making false public statements related to the investigation. Further, the agency’s failure to protect taxpayer data or spend resources wisely shows an agency in desperate need of reform and new leadership.
Stonewalling of Lois Lerner Tea Party Investigation
Throughout the investigation into this scandal, Koskinen’s IRS continually failed to provide important information or perform basic due diligence. For his part, Koskinen’s statements before Congress were frequently misleading.
The IRS failed to search five of six possible sources of electronic media for Lois Lerner’s emails. The only source they bothered to search – her hard-drive – was destroyed after a brief search deemed information unrecoverable. In hindsight, documentation suggests that more could have been done to recover data.
Later, the agency’s ineptness — or corruption — resulted in 24,000 Lerner emails being lost when they were “accidently” destroyed despite the existence of an agency wide preservation order.
Koskinen then withheld from Congress both the preservation order and destruction of tapes during sworn testimony. He also failed to disclose details regarding Lois Lerner’s mysteriously destroyed hard drive during testimony.
The supposed carelessness of the agency means that important information is no longer available to congress because of the actions of IRS employees, while the countless misleading statements has caused investigations to drag on for years.
Failure to Protect Taxpayer Information
As if lying to the American people and Congress weren’t bad enough, the agency has also failed to protect taxpayer data despite numerous warnings from watchdog groups.
Earlier this year, the IRS revealed that the taxpayer information of over 100,000 filers had been stolen – a number that was later revised to about 330,000 taxpayers.
Following the hack, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Chief J. Russell George revealed that the IRS failed to implement 44 recommendations that would improve the IRS’s ability to protect taxpayer information from hackers. Of these 44, ten recommendations were over three years old.
Since 2007, the IRS has been officially warned at least seven times by watchdog groups that it needed to strengthen its protections of taxpayer information.
The IRS failed to take these warnings serious, and taxpayers paid the price.
The IRS is Failing to Spend Taxpayer Resources Wisely
To all that would listen, Koskinen and other IRS officials have claimed the agency is underfunded. One even claimed that the agency was “struggling to keep the lights on.” But the facts say otherwise.
According to the National Taxpayer Advocate, the IRS is unable to justify its spending decisions:
“the IRS has come under scrutiny by external oversight organizations who have questioned the IRS’s rationale for its budget decisions. They have not been satisfied with the IRS’s response to their inquiries.”
This has not stopped agency officials from complaining, or from making further poor spending decisions.
For one, the agency has made the costly (and perhaps illegal) decision to hire a litigation-only white shoe law firm for over $1,000 an hour over an audit of Microsoft. The agency already has 40,000 employees dedicated to enforcement efforts and access to the IRS office of Chief Counsel or a Department of Justice attorney for audits. Instead it chose to hire an outside firm for at least $2.2 million.
The agency has also spent over 500,000 hours, or $23.5 million a year on union activities, and gave 57 contracts worth a total of $18.8 million to corporations had federal tax debt or a felony conviction.