Tuesday, June 04, 2013

He's so crooked





Ranking Member Jose Serrano:  I think all members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- were appalled by the inappropriate actions taken by the IRS in determining how to examine the tax exempt status applications of various groups.  The delays in processing applications, the criteria used to further review the information asked for indicate it's an organization failure that is simply unacceptable.   The IRS is supposed to administer our tax laws in a fair and impartial manner -- anything else, and the agency loses the confidence of the American people.  The IRS has not helped the situation with a seeming lack of clarity and forthrightness with Congress on these issues.  In March of 2012, this Subcommittee was told in no uncertain terms that the IRS was not targeting particular groups for further scrutiny and that there were several safeguards in place to prevent bias or unfair examination policies of 501 (c) (IV) organizations.  Both of these answers were terribly wrong then and they're terribly wrong now.

This afternoon, the House Oversight Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government held a hearing on the IRS scandal.  Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel (who just assumed that job) and Treasury Inspector General for the IRS J. Russell George.

How serious is the problem?  After the idiot Marcy Kaptur tried to distract everyone, US House Rep Steve Womack was left to refocus.

US House Rep Steve Womack:  Did this particular circumstance surprise you?

J. Russell George:  Yes, very much so.  This is unprecedented, Congressman.  Again, obviously during -- during the Nixon administration there were attempts to use the Internal Revenue Service in terms of matters that might be comparable in terms of misusing it.  I'm not suggesting that the actions that were taken are comparable but I'm just saying that the misuse, causing the mistrust of the system occurred some time ago.  But this is unprecedented.

For the most part, Democrats took the issue seriously.  In fact, I'd say everyone but anti-choice Kaptur had a solid moment.  Kaptur made a fool of herself but that's being covered elsewhere tonight.  Just know that no one has looked like this big of an idiot in a Congressional hearing so far this year as Kaptur did today.  And it wasn't enough to make an idiot of herself in the first round of questioning, she also did it in the second round.  A complete fool.  Ohio should have gone with Dennis Kucinich.  He always had his facts before speaking in a hearing and never got schooled by a witness the way Kaptur was repeatedly.  Her argument was that the IRS was "doing their job."  This is a seat that may be competitive in 2014 thanks to Kaptur's stupidity and how embarrassing it will be for her to lose the seat one election after she ousted Kucinich.

US House Rep Harold Rogers was bothered by the fact that as the scandal took place, the IRS gave out over $93 million in bonuses (2010, 2011 and 2012).  And within that sum, key figures in the current scandal got bonuses.  Sarah Hall Ingram, the former Commissioner of the Tax Exempt Division which was responsible for overseeing the 501 (c) (IV) received bonuses of $103,000 plus which increased during the period of increased scrutiny of these groups.  And in addition to that, she was promoted." Her deputy, Joseph Grant, received "almost 84,000" in bonuses "during that same period of time."  Lois Lerner, the IRS official who appeared before Congress last month and took the Fifth, refusing to answer questions to avoid self-incrimination, received "almost $42,000 in bonuses during that same period of time."

US House Rep Harold Rogers:  And all of these had to be approved by the President.  Isn't that right?

Daniel Werfel:  Uh, my understanding is that there is a small subclass of bonuses -- called Presidential Rank Awards -- that are approved by the President but they are relatively small in number.  There's maybe a couple of hundred throughout the entire government.  The larger amount of bonuses in terms of quantity are typically approved by the agency head.

US House Rep Harold Rogers:  But OPM's guidelines say that bonuses over $25,000 have to be approved by the President.  So did the President approve these bonuses of these very critical people in this scandal that we're investigation?

Daniel Werfel: I'm not sure the answer to that question.  I'm also not sure from the way you phrased the question if the bonus numbers that you articulated were individual bonuses that added up to those numbers or if there was an individual bonus that exceeded $25,000 but that's something that we can certainly look into and get back to you.

J. Russel George noted that his department was currently in the midst of an ongoing audit of the bonuses and would share the information when the audit is complete (which is supposed to be this fall).

Daniel Werfel told the Committee he met once with US President Barack Obama for "about a 20 minute conversation," on May 16 or 17th (he wasn't sure which), "He ordered me to do an accountability review.  His primary order to me was to restore the trust."  Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew was also at the meeting.  Werfel was told to prepare a plan and he stated his plan was due at the end of the month "and the first  aspect was get to the bottom of this and hold the appropriate people accountable."

US House Rep Tom Graves:  Regardless of whether the President asked you to or not, do you plan on clearing house, terminating anyone or holding anyone accountable?

Daniel Werfel: I certainly plan on holding people accountable.  I don't know that --

US House Rep Tom Graves:  What is your definition of accountable?

Daniel Werfel:  So here -- That's a good question.  Here's where we are right now in the process.  We have an audit report that the Inspector General provided and that audit report has conclusions about mismanagement.  And so the first part about the review is to figure out whether any of that mismanagement would lead one to the conclusion that that individual can no longer hold a position of public trust in the IRS.  And that's my first order of business.

US House Rep Tom Graves:  You've already stated publicly that the public trust has been lost.  You stated that at the beginning of this meeting. 

Daniel Werfel:  Right.

US House Rep Tom Graves:   You also stated, to the Chairman's question, that if somebody has done something wrong -- Would you terminate them?  And it was in accordance to the refundable tax credits.  And you said if somebody knowingly and advertently does that, you said yes, you would fire them.  So we know that something has occurred here and yet we hear there's this long review process and yet no one has been held accountable.  So for the Committee, to date, has anyone been held accountable?

Daniel Werfel:  Well let me answer your question this way, if you look at the IRS --

US House Rep Tom Graves:   That's a yes-or-no.  Has anyone been held accountable?

Daniel Werfel:  I -- I would say yes --

US House Rep Tom Graves:  Who?

Daniel Werfel:  -- and then I would like to expand on that.  If you look at the IRS organization today versus the day the IG report was issued, we have new leadership in the Commissioner's Office, Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, Commissioner for Tax Exempt and Government Entites and in the organization --

US House Rep Tom Graves: That is new leadership, but who has been held accountable?

Daniel Werfel:  Well I think the-the-the-the leaders that were replaced, certainly I think the fact that they're no longer holding positions of public trust, that's part of the accountability.  The critical point here  --

US House Rep Tom Graves: Were they terminated?

Daniel Werfel:  Uhm.  In most cases, resigned.

US House Rep Tom Graves: Voluntarily or were they asked to resign?

Daniel Werfel:  It's uh -- a combination.  For example, Steve Miller  was asked --

US House Rep Tom Graves: So resignation is accountability?  Is that what you're telling the American people?

Daniel Werfel:   Well here's what I'm saying ---

US House Rep Tom Graves: Lois Lerner being on administrative leave is accountability?  Is Lois Lerner still being paid today?

Daniel Werfel:   She is.

US House Rep Tom Graves: Is that your definition of accountability?

Daniel Werfel:   Well if you'd let me -- if you'd indulge me to answer the question.

US House Rep Tom Graves: That's easy, yes-or-no?

Daniel Werfel:   There's two stages to accountability here.  The first stage is based on the facts we have now to determine who can no longer hold a position of trust in the IRS.  And the second stage, which I know is where you're going, is to determine whether there was any underlying malfeasance or issues that would warrant dismissal.  We're going to follow the facts where they take us.  We just do not yet have that completed review Inspector General --

US House Rep Tom Graves: If you don't know that there's underlying malfeasance, then why was somebody asked to resign?

Daniel Werfel:   Because the decision was made that that person could no longer hold a position of trust because of the failures of management oversight.  Whether those factors were motivated by something --

US House Rep Tom Graves:  So they were asked to resign just to restore public trust?  For public perception purposes or maybe political purposes.

Two things on that exchange.  First, Lois Lerner has abused the public trust.  That's not in question.  First off, to try to get ahead of the scandal, she planted a question with a friend.  The friend asked her it during the ABA conference and this is how the scandal broke.  You don't plant a question.  You don't pretend that your friend asking the question is a stranger.  That's deception.  That's an abuse of public trust.

You also aren't allowed to plead the Fifth with respect to your official duties.  Once you do that, you've lost the public trust.  There's no excuse for it.  There's also no excuse to continue to pay Lois Lerner.  She needs to be fired.  She betrayed the public trust when she took the Fifth and when she misled the American people by planting a question (and by not answering her on planted question in full -- let's remember that as well.)

Second, Werfel's waiting on an IG report?  No.  Werfel is the acting Commissioner.  He needs to be doing his own investigations. It is the "I'll wait for the IG report" that resulted in the last acting commissioner being asked to resign.

US House Rep Nita Lowey, early on, summed up the basic reaction to the IRS scandal better than anyone,  "What on earth were they thinking?  It is truly amazing to me. And I'm furious that the IRS engaged in ideological scrutiny which is absolutely unacceptable.  We have a responsibility to the American people to make sure this is rectified and does not happen again.  Our nation was founded on the principles of freedom of speech and expression.  No position or party has a monopoly in our public debate or government.  The IRS should never be used for any activities that come close to partisan or political action."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Scandal""
"The Godfather of the Divide?"
"Veterans isues"
"1,045 violent deaths in Iraq in the month of May"
"I Hate The War"
"The IRS hands out money to employees like its candy (Wally)"
"Kaptor should resign and give Kucinich the seat"
"Another senator dies in office"
"gwynie the unloved"
"Chris Hedges is pure trash and he started the false link between Iraq and 9-11"
"The menace named Marcy"
"If there's anyone more stupid than Bob Somerby it's his crackers"
"Jill Abramson is an embarrassment"
"The always disgusting Chris Hedges"
"Those White House Scandals"

"Bad reviews come rolling in"

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