June 17 (Bloomberg) -- Congressional Republicans are demanding answers from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service after the agency lost more than two years of e-mails requested by lawmakers.
The e-mails belonged to Lois Lerner, who was director of exempt organizations during the period when the IRS gave extra scrutiny to some Tea Party groups asking for tax-exempt status.
“It’s now quite obvious that we haven’t seen the last of the administration’s stalling,” Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, said today. “Let’s just skip past the ‘dog ate my homework’ excuses.”
The leaders of two congressional committees are seeking testimony from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to explain why the e-mails can’t be produced and why he didn’t tell lawmakers sooner about a computer crash.
“I will not tolerate your continued obstruction and game-playing in response to the committee’s investigation of the IRS targeting,” Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote in a letter late yesterday to Koskinen. It was attached to a subpoena for the commissioner to appear on June 23.
Koskinen will first testify at the Ways and Means Committee on June 20, the committee said today.
The IRS told lawmakers last week that a computer crash destroyed some of Lerner’s e-mails between January 2009 and April 2011. At least four congressional committees have been investigating the IRS for more than a year.
None has issued a final report and Republicans have clashed with the agency over the pace of document production.
The IRS’s disclosure of the lost e-mails rekindled Republicans’ frustration with the agency and concern that it was targeting President Barack Obama’s political opponents and trying to cover that up.
The House Ways and Means Committee said in a statement today that six other IRS employees have missing records, including Nikole Flax, a senior manager.
The committee said the IRS had known about the gaps in the records since February. Koskinen told Issa’s committee in March that the IRS would produce all e-mails.
House Republicans are also planning to use their control of spending bills to curtail the IRS. They are proposing a 3.1 percent budget cut for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, rejecting the administration’s request for a 10.5 percent increase.
The House spending plan would prevent the IRS from issuing rules governing nonprofit groups’ political activity, producing inappropriate videos and providing bonuses unless employees’ tax compliance is taken into account.
Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, told reporters on Air Force One yesterday that the IRS had provided thousands of e-mails from the time in question because it was able to track them down in other ways.
“There is ample evidence to indicate that a good-faith effort has been made by the IRS to cooperate with congressional oversight,” he said. “And the far-fetched skepticism expressed by some Republican members of Congress I think is not at all surprising and not particularly believable.”
Lerner was placed on administrative leave last year after the IRS’s actions became public, and she later retired.
The House voted on May 7 to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify after she declared her innocence.
The Ways and Means Committee voted on April 9 to recommend that Lerner be prosecuted for violating taxpayers’ rights. Lerner hasn’t been charged with a crime.
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