5 more key IRS employees lost emails
The IRS admitted in a report issued yesterday that 5 more key employees involved in the targeting scandal had lost emails that congressional investigators were interested in reading.
The agency admitted earlier that thousands of emails to and fron Lois Lerner had been lost after a "computer crash." The IRS made the same claim about the latest missing emails.
On Friday, the IRS issued a report to Congress saying the agency also lost emails from five other employees related to the probe, including two agents who worked in a Cincinnati office processing applications for tax-exempt status.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, whose committee has been investigating the scandal, said the disclosure is yet another example of the Obama administration changing its story on the scandal.
"The IRS’s ever-changing story is practically impossible to follow at this point, as they modify it each time to accommodate new facts," Issa, R-Calif., said. "This pattern must stop."
The disclosure came on the same day the Senate's subcommittee on investigations released competing reports on how the IRS handled applications from political groups during the 2010 and 2012 elections.
The Democratic report, released by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, said both liberal and conservative groups were mistreated, revealing no political bias by the IRS. The Republican report, issued by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said conservative groups were clearly treated worse.
The IRS inspector general set off a firestorm last year with an audit that said IRS agents singled out Tea Party and other conservative groups for inappropriate scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.
Lerner's lost emails prompted a new round of scrutiny by Congress, the Justice Department, the inspector general and at least two federal judges.
The IRS blamed computer crashes for all the lost emails. In a statement, the IRS said all the crashes happened well before Congress launched the investigations.
"Throughout this review, the IRS has found no evidence that any IRS personnel deliberately destroyed any evidence," said the IRS statement. "To the contrary, the computer issues identified appear to be the same sorts of issues routinely experienced by employees within the IRS, in other government agencies and in the private sector."
When Congress started investigating the IRS last year, the agency identified 82 employees who might have documents related to the inquiries. The IRS said 18 of those people had computer problems between September 2009 and February 2014. Of those employees, five probably lost emails -- in addition to Lerner -- the agency said Friday.
Computers crashing may or may not be "routine" elsewhere in government and the private sector. But how "routine" is it for 20% of the employees under scrutiny who lost emails to be targets of a congressional investigation?
The IRS claims that the employees' computers crashed before the investigations began and that they immediately reported the crash to the agency's IT department. What difference does that make if the employees were aware what they were doing was illegal and were likely to be investigated by Congress some day? I would say they had a strong incentive to destroy the emails regardless of when the investigations began.
The Senate Democratic report tried in vain to tag the IRS with being an equal opportunity targeter of non profit groups. The inspector general's report made it crystal clear that 15 times more conservative groups were targeted than liberal groups, and that the Tea Party groups were subjected to far more scrutiny than the liberal organizations.
Some of those emails may be recovered as they may have been copied to other employees whose computers didn't crash. But it's a safe bet that any emails that may have told a different story about the IRS targeting scandal no longer exist.