Michael Zimmer: More questions in IRS scandal

The June 17 Associated Press story headlined “IRS lost more than Lerner’s emails in Tea Party probe” tells me that, for a scandal about which President Barack H. Obama claimed there was not even a smidgen of corruption, that sure seems like an odd coincidence.

The report indicates that an undetermined number of emails were lost when Lois Lerner’s government computer crashed in 2011. She was formerly in charge of the IRS division handling applications for tax-exempt status.

She also plead the Fifth Amendment during congressional testimony.

The AP noted that two Republican members of Congress have related that the IRS also lost emails from six additional staffers due to crashes. This number included Nikole Flax, then chief of staff to Lerner’s then boss, deputy commissioner Steven Miller.

Miller was later named acting IRS commissioner, “but was forced to resign last year after the agency acknowledged that agents had improperly scrutinized tea party and other conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status.”

The report noted that some liberal groups were also flagged.

Ways and Means Committee Chair David Camp, R-MI, and Subcommittee Chair Charles Boustany, R-LA, have asked the Justice Department to name a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS. Attorney General Eric Holder has thus far declined to make such an appointment.

The AP reports that the IRS did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit offering legal advice in various matters, represents several of the conservative groups that were delayed in obtaining nonprofit status. The center’s website has requested folks sign a petition for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate what happened at the IRS.

The ACLJ noted that the government did not “lose all of her emails, only her emails to the White House, Federal Election Commission, Department of Justice and other federal agencies.” They characterized the situation as stonewalling even more brazen than the lost tapes of President Richard M. Nixon.

The website for the Philadelphia CBS affiliate, philadelphia.cbslocal.com, shared the content of a recent radio interview featuring Sharyl Attkisson, one of my favorite television investigative reporters.

She related that the emails in question would not have been stored on a single server or even a single computer. She said her view is that if this was truly an accident, that would be quite a story in itself.

She encouraged congress to investigate the matter quickly to determine whether anyone in the IRS is attempting to hide or destroy emails.

Attkisson further observed that the IRS has a role to play in implementing the Affordable Care Act. She asked, “If the IRS system can indeed be so vulnerable that some sort of crash can lose all kinds of important data like this, what does it say about the federal system?”

I have a feeling the IRS would not very readily accept this kind of computer crash explanation from someone it was investigating.

Depending on the media sources one likes to review, this story of the lost emails will get either intense scrutiny or barely a mention.

I think we can anticipate heated congressional hearings as this latest shoe to drop is considered by that body. It would sure be nice for some light to be shed during such hearings as well.

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