The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

IRS Commissioner Impeached by House Committee

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Since the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1789, the House of Representatives has filed articles of impeachment just 17 times and only eight times did the Senate convict.  Alexander Hamilton wrote that impeachment should be reserved for “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

On October 27, 2015, 19 members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, including Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), introduced H. Res. 494, a resolution to impeach Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen.  The resolution accuses Koskinen of a “pattern of deception,” making “materially false statements,” and a “breach of trust,” that constitutes a “pattern of conduct that is incompatible with the duties as an officer of the United States.”  The committee used Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, which grants the House the power to impeach federal officials who commit “high crimes and misdemeanors,” including dereliction of duty. 

The four articles of impeachment are related to Koskinen’s actions and statements following the revelations of the targeting of conservative and tea party groups.  This saga began on May 10, 2013, when IRS Exempt Organizations Unit Director Lois Lerner publically admitted that her division of the IRS placed extra burdens on conservative and tea party groups when they were applying for tax-exempt status in 2011-2012. 

On May 14, 2013 the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report that found the IRS “allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months, resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications, and allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued.”  The FBI announced it would investigate the incident the same day.  President Obama declared the targeting “inexcusable and Americans have the right to be angry about it.”  He then accepted the resignation of IRS acting-Commissioner Steven Miller.

After Lerner refused to testify before the Oversight Committee on May 22, 2013, the committee subpoenaed her government emails on August 2, 2013.  Koskinen was nominated to take the top job at the agency on August 1, 2013 and was sworn in on December 23, 2013.  In a March 26, 2014 House Oversight Committee hearing, Koskinen denied that targeting took place and repeatedly promised that the IRS would turn over all of Lerner’s emails.  However, later in the hearing, he backtracked, saying it could take years to sift through the documents and make them available to the committee. 

Inexplicably, on June 20, 2014, Koskinen admitted to the committee that Lerner’s server, which housed her emails for a key two-year period, had crashed in 2011 and was destroyed by the agency.  When he was confronted regarding this implausible turn of events, Koskinen was defiant, “I don’t think an apology is owed,” he said.  In a further bizarre twist, TIGTA investigators determined that the hard drive “more than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort.” 

Nevertheless, backup tapes did exist for the server.  But the IRS said that some of them were "magnetically erased,” and the remainder of the tapes were not recoverable.  That statement was proven untrue after it took TIGTA investigators just 15 days to find 744 backup tapes the IRS conveniently did not find or produce.  The IRS did not even fully explore additional sources for Lerner’s emails, including her hard drive and Blackberry, backup tapes, server drives, the backup tapes for the server drives, and loaner lap tops. 

TIGTA Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Timothy Camus concluded, “To the best we can determine through the investigation, they just simply didn’t look for those emails.”  This occurred after Koskinen’s sworn statement to search for them and his assurance that his agency went to “extraordinary lengths” to obtain them. 

Most troubling was the June 25, 2015 disclosure that 422 additional backup tapes, which housed an estimated 24,000 emails, were erased by IRS officials on March 4, 2014, in the face of both a preservation order and a Congressional subpoena.  Koskinen had testified three weeks earlier that he would retrieve the emails. 

CAGW called for Koskinen to resign in July 2015, as did the Oversight Committee.  CAGW even named him Porker of the Month to start bringing public attention to this matter.  After Koskinen refused to resign, committee members introduced the articles of impeachment.  

CAGW has launched a campaign to gain public support of the impeachment effort, including both letters to its members and supporters and online communications.  CAGW will continue to point out that while the commissioner was supposed to be forthright and transparent with Congress and the American people, he instead has an extensive and dubious track record of evasive, incompetent, and hostile behavior to taxpayers and their representatives.  It is long past time for him to leave and be replaced with an individual who holds taxpayers and their interests in higher esteem.

Other groups that have taken up this cause include Freedom Works and Tea Party Patriots, both of whom have online petitions calling for Koskinen’s impeachment.

Currently, the resolution to impeach Commissioner Koskinen has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and there are no hearing dates scheduled as of yet.  When the House does begin proceedings, taxpayers can only hope Commissioner Koskinen receives the judgment he deserves.

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