Turnaround specialist uninterested in turning IRS around

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is known as a “turnaround specialist” who helped rescue failed or failing enterprises. Unfortunately, it is clear from Koskinen’s strident testimony before Congress that he has no intention of turning the IRS around. His intention, instead, is to stonewall. The only change Koskinen seemed interested in during his recent testimony is more funding for the IRS.

Koskinen may have a background as a turnaround specialist, but for the Obama administration his relevant background consists of loyalty to the Democratic Party. As Bryan Preston points out, Koskinen has made financial contributions to Democratic candidates going back to Gary Hart. In fact, he has contributed to every Democratic presidential nominee since Walter Mondale.

According to Preston, Koskinen has never contributed to a Republican campaign.

There’s nothing unusual about presidents appointing loyal financial contributors to important executive branch positions. But in this instance, the IRS is under fire for rank partisanship in its treatment of taxpayers. If the IRS is innocent of these charges, the administration will be better served by a non-partisan Commissioner. If guilty, I suppose it will be better served by Koskinen, to the extent his stonewalling is successful.

But Koskinen is already under fire for having difficulty with the truth. In late March, as noted here, Trey Gowdy asked him why emails from 2010 couldn’t be retrieved more quickly. Koskinen testified that they couldn’t be retrieved more quickly because they had to be screened.

However, it turns out, as Koskinen subsequently testified, that he knew in March the emails were lost (or at least could not at that point be retrieved). Thus, his response to Gowdy was false. The problem wasn’t that the IRS needed more time to screen emails; the problem was that IRS didn’t have the emails.

Koskinen has also testified that IRS emails are not necessarily “records.” Documents that are not “records” can be deleted at will. But John has shown that Koskinen’s claim is tenuous in light of the broad definition of “record” under federal law.

At the time of Koskinen’s appointment, Sen. Hatch declared that he was “more than a little mystified” at the appointment of someone so partisan. The Senator presumably had in mind the traditional approach to government crisis management under which a squeaky clean figure, trusted to a reasonable degree by both political parties, is brought in to restore public confidence in a troubled federal agency.

Unfortunately, this model is obsolete in the Age of Obama.

BY THE WAY: Koskinen was President of the U.S. Soccer Foundation from 2004-2008. I’m not counting that as a troubled organization or failing enterprise, however.

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