House Oversight Committee censures, condemns IRS commish Koskinen

Among other things, the House panel claims Koskinen lied to Congress, allowed the destruction of evidence, and "betrayed" the trust of Americans.
By Doug G. Ware  |  June 15, 2016 at 3:29 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted Wednesday to approve a resolution to censure Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen for his actions following the tax agency's targeting scandal three years ago.

House Resolution 737 says Koskinen should be "condemned and censured" for failing to comply with a subpoena in the case, and allowing critical evidence to be destroyed. The resolution also criticizes him for failing to testify truthfully under oath and giving false and misleading information to Congress.

The resolution says the IRS chief "engaged in a pattern of conduct inconsistent with the trust and confidence placed in him as an Officer of the United States" and advocates Koskinen's resignation or removal. It also demands the forfeiture of his government pension and other federal benefits.

The condemnation of Koskinen stems from the IRS' targeting controversy in 2013 that involved agency personnel allegedly singling out conservative groups, many of them related to the Tea Party, for extra scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status.

While Koskinen was not yet IRS commissioner when the alleged targeting occurred, he did preside over the agency during the ensuing federal investigation, which included extensive scrutiny of administrator Lois Lerner, who oversaw the tax-exempt division.

The House resolution holds Koskinen responsible for actions taken at the IRS after the revelation of the scandal.

Left to right, J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; Douglas Shulman, Former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner; Lois Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations for the IRS; and Neal S. Wolin, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, are sworn-in during a House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee hearing into the alleged targeting of conservative groups, such as the Tea Party, seeking tax-exempt status with the federal tax agency, May 22, 2013. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

"On March 4, 2014, Internal Revenue Service employees in Martinsburg, West Virginia, magnetically erased 422 backup tapes, destroying as many as 24,000 of Lois Lerner's emails responsive to the subpoena," the resolution states. "Koskinen violated a congressional subpoena by failing to locate and preserve relevant records and by losing key pieces of evidence that were in the agency's possession, and destroyed, on his watch."

Koskinen became IRS commissioner in December 2013, several months after the scandal broke and three months after Lerner resigned.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has claimed that Koskinen lied to the committee about the existence of tapes relevant to the matter -- and requested last July in a 29-page letter that President Barack Obama remove him from his post. Fifty-one other lawmakers also signed the letter.

Alleging that Koskinen "betrayed the trust and confidence of the American people," H.R. 737 again asks for him to resign, or be fired.

"It is the sense of the House of Representatives that John A. Koskinen, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, should immediately resign from office, and if he does not so resign, the President should remove him from office," it concludes.

Obama did not respond to Chaffetz's letter last summer calling for Koskinen's ouster.

The U.S. Department of Justice in October concluded a two-year investigation into the matter and said no evidence was found to indicate anyone at the IRS broke the law.

"Our investigation uncovered substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia, leading to the belief by many tax-exempt applicants that the IRS targeted them based on their political viewpoints. But poor management is not a crime," Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Peter J. Kadzik said. "We found no evidence that any IRS official acted on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution."

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