House Hearings: IRS Broke Records Law on Lerner E-mails

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
House Hearings: IRS Broke Records Law on Lerner E-mails

The IRS broke federal law in not reporting Lois Lerner's hard drive failure and the loss of e-mail demanded by Congress, a federal archivist told the House Oversight Committee June 24.

“In accordance with the Federal Records Act, when an agency becomes aware of an incident of unauthorized destruction, they must report the incident to us,” David Ferriero, chief archivist at the National Archives, told the Oversight Committee. 

The issue originated over IRS targeting Tea Party groups' non-profit applications for delays and extra scrutiny from 2011 to 2013. The purpose of delaying those applications was to financially starve the incipient organizations in their cradles, as most corporations and foundations will only give to non-profits with an IRS 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 tax-exempt designation.

The command for this kind of extra scrutiny of Tea Party groups went up as least as far as Lois Lerner, head of the IRS Office of Exempt Organizations in Washington. Lerner refused to testify to congressional investigators on March 4, citing her right against self-incrimination protected by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

After Lerner pled the Fifth, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) demanded the IRS fulfill subpoenas for Lerner's work e-mails issued months earlier, but the IRS has yet to provide any e-mails since the August 2013 subpoenas were issued. Congress learned only June 13 of the IRS claim that Lerner's hard drive had crashed in 2011 and that many of the e-mails that began the scrutiny were allegedly unrecoverable. 

Republicans expressed outrage that John Koskinen — a professional troubleshooter who took over Freddie Mac during the height of the 2008-09 financial crisis — testified that he became aware of the failure of Lerner's IRS computer hard drive in April, but didn't inform the Congress of that fact for two more months. Koskinen also said that IRS back-ups of e-mails were erased after six months, and that Lerner's e-mails were not restored even though congressmen had already requested Tea Party-related documents within the six-month time frame of the crash.

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