First, IRS officials claimed that a computer crash led to the loss of two years’ worth of Lois Lerner’s e-mails. Now, they say the same about the e-mails of six more employees due to a series of computer crashes.
If true, the IRS must have had a very timely epidemic of technical difficulties in the middle of a highly publicized investigation. Many computer experts have pointed out the implausibility of the IRS’s story given that government uses a program called ‘RAID’ (Redundant Array Of Independent Disks) to store its e-mails.
Meanwhile, House Republicans put out a budget for the next fiscal year that would slash the IRS’s funding by $1.5 billion (about 15 percent). The purpose for the cut is to keep the IRS focused on “core duties,” instead of undue targeting and enforcement of Obamacare.
The House Ways and Means committee is now calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the case further. The National Review has more:
The IRS told Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp and subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany that computer crashes resulted in additional lost e-mails, including from Nikole Flax, the chief of staff to former IRS commissioner Steven Miller, who was fired in the wake of the targeting scandal.
The revelation about Lerner’s e-mails rekindled the scandal and today’s news has further inflamed Republicans. Camp and Boustany are now demanding a special prosecutor to investigate “every angle” of the targeting. They expressed particular outrage that the agency has known since February that it would not be able to produce the e-mails requested by the committee yet did not apprise the committee of that fact, and they charged in a statement that the IRS is attempting to “cover up the fact that it convenient lost key documents in the investigation.”
If Lerner is the central figure in the scandal — Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa said Monday evening he believes she was the senior-most official involved — Flax may be an important auxiliary figure. E-mails produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the group Judicial Watch show Flax giving the green light to Lerner’s request to meet with Department of Justice officials to explore the possibility of criminally prosecuting nonprofit groups — at the suggestion of Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse — for engaging in political activity after declaring on their application for nonprofit status that they had no plans to do so.
E-mails uncovered by the committee last week showed that, in preparation for her meeting with the Department of Justice, Lerner and one of her advisers transmitted 1.1 million pages of data on nonprofit groups, including confidential taxpayer information, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, potentially in violation of federal law.
The IRS investigation started last summer when it was revealed that the organization had been unfairly targeting conservative, Tea Party, pro-life, and even pro-Israel groups. The IRS asked intrusive questions of the organization (like the content of their prayers), and subjected the groups to unusually prolonged reviews. Some groups were denied tax exempt status, others were were left in limbo for years, while similar liberal groups were given the green light within just weeks.
Lerner was the head of the IRS division on tax-exempt organizations during the period of targeting. Previously released e-mails indicate the organization was actively targeting conservative groups.