On October 27, the House of Representatives moved to impeach the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen. It may seem odd that Koskinen is being punished since he wasn’t commissioner when the IRS scandal broke two years ago. But make no mistake, Koskinen is a worthy candidate for impeachment.
To get to the bottom of the scandal—the deliberate slow-walking or outright denial of applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups—Congress subpoenaed all the emails of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Unit head, Lois Lerner. Koskinen, who was sworn in as commissioner on December 23, 2013, failed to act on this subpoena, and on March 4, 2014, the agency erased 422 backup tapes, destroying as many as 24,000 of Lerner’s emails, despite a congressional order mandating relevant IRS records be preserved.
Koskinen knowingly sat on the information that the emails had been destroyed for four months. When he finally offered an explanation of what had happened to the emails, it was buried on page seven of the third attachment to a letter sent to the Senate Finance Committee in a Friday news dump. Koskinen testified before Congress that he had personally confirmed that none of the IRS’s other email backup tapes was recoverable.
This was a lie. Employees from the inspector general’s office later drove to the IRS office in West Virginia, where the backup tapes were kept, and asked for whatever was there. They recovered 700 backup tapes, and with them 1,000 new emails from Lois Lerner. Finally, a Government Accountability Office report in July indicated that the agency had introduced no new safeguards to prevent the targeting of “organizations’ religious, educational, political, or other views” despite a clear mandate to do so.
Koskinen is just the most prominent federal employee recently implicated in malfeasance. To recap:
- Lois Lerner had a history of targeting conservatives at the Federal Election Commission before going to the IRS. In emails, she called conservatives “crazies” and “a—holes.” She admitted in a press conference that the targeting of conservative groups that she had engaged in was wrong. Yet just the other day, on October 23, the Justice Department announced it was bringing no charges against her. She received $129,300 in bonuses in the three years leading up to the scandal and retired with a full pension.
- Coincidentally, on October 22, the Justice Department’s inspector general revealed that half the drug enforcement agents investigated for attending parties with prostitutes in Colombia received bonuses either during the investigation into their conduct or later.
- After poor management at the Veterans Administration was implicated in numerous deaths, the New York Times reported in April that “at most three” VA employees lost their jobs. A September inspector general’s report revealed that VA employees were getting around having their bonuses frozen as a result of the scandal by creating new positions at the agency, then volunteering to relocate for these jobs—and collecting exorbitant expenses related to the move. One VA executive relocating to Philadelphia collected $274,019. The inspector general’s report declared this “inappropriate,” but conceded that the payoffs were “generally allowable under Federal and VA policy.”
The federal bureaucracy has always been bad at policing employees, but President Obama bears direct responsibility for the problem getting immeasurably worse. Last year, 47 of the 73 federal inspectors general signed a letter decrying the Obama administration for stonewalling their investigations and in some cases actively intimidating investigators. Recall that Obama actually fired the inspector general at the Corporation for National and Community Service, Gerald Walpin, in 2009 for reporting that Sacramento mayor and Obama pal Kevin Johnson was abusing funds from AmeriCorps. Since then, Johnson’s term as mayor has been marked by a series of scandals that echo Walpin’s charges.
The Scrapbook, ever mindful of the passage of time, couldn’t help but notice the obituary for John Doar in a recent edition of the Washington Post. Doar, who died last week at the age of 92, had been one of Bobby Kennedy’s associates at the Justice Department, serving for seven years in its civil rights division. Those were interesting times (1960-67) to be in the civil rights division, and the Post had much to say about Doar’s work in the long, sometimes violent, struggle to end racial segregation.
Last month the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The vote broke along party lines, 10-to-8. Over the weekend Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania became the first Democrat to oppose Adegbile. “I will not vote to confirm the nominee,” he said. A cloture vote scheduled for Monday has (because of the snowstorm) been postponed to Wednesday. With Casey’s announcement, Adegbile can no longer be assured that Democratic senators will uniformly support him. Indeed, the question now is whether other Democrats will follow Casey’s lead. It would take six Democrats including Casey to vote against and defeat the nomination.
Baton Rouge Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal found out late on Friday, August 23. Attorney General Eric Holder was suing to block the state’s school voucher program, which aims to give low-income kids in terrible schools the opportunity to attend better public schools and even private schools. The Justice Department claims the two-year-old program could interfere with federal desegregation orders in several Louisiana parishes, holdovers from the Civil Rights era.
Several weeks ago in San Francisco, Attorney General Eric Holder told the American Bar Association that our criminal justice system is too harsh, too costly, and gives convicted African-American males sentences 20 percent longer than others for similar crimes.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid said the George Zimmerman trial "isn't over" and said he thinks "the Justice Department is going to take a look at this."
The NBC host asked, "And the president, does he have a role in speaking about it as he did after the shooting?"
"Yeah, of course," said Reid. "And I think the Justice Department's going to take a look at this. You know, this isn't over with, and I think that's good, that's our system. It's gotten better, not worse."
Valerie Jarrett, a close adviser to President Obama, said that Eric Holder is "definitely" not stepping down and that he'll be attorney general "for quite a while."
"One of the things that you learn in this business is, don't listen to rumors. You can take it from me. Obviously, I know the president pretty well. And I know the attorney general very well. and he will be in his position for quite a while."
White House spokesman dodged questions today about whether Attorney General Eric Holder told the truth when testifying in front of Congress. The questions arise amid new developments in the story of the Justice Department's snooping on Fox News reporter James Rosen.
"I would refer you to the Justice Department," says Carney.
President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, is "beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse." The feelings of "remorse" began for Holder after he read an article in the Washington Post about how the Justice Department, which he heads, investigated Fox News reporter James Rosen.