• So does im­peach­ing the IRS chief

House Repub­li­cans are wast­ing tax­pay­ers’ money to hob­ble an agency they de­spise

Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe) - - CONTENTS -

John Kosk­i­nen agreed to take one of the worst jobs in Amer­ica. Now he’s be­ing pun­ished for it. In 2013, Pres­i­dent Obama asked Kosk­i­nen to take over at the IRS amid bud­getary chaos and a sim­mer­ing scan­dal. House Repub­li­cans, still an­gry about that scan­dal—and about the con­cept of tax­a­tion gen­er­ally—are try­ing to im­peach him.

Their case is weak. Start with the scan­dal. An in­spec­tor gen­eral re­port in 2013 found that IRS em­ploy­ees had been im­prop­erly scru­ti­niz­ing con­ser­va­tive groups seek­ing tax­ex­empt sta­tus. This was wrong, and blame was duly ap­por­tioned. The agency’s boss re­signed, a top deputy re­tired, and the di­rec­tor of the of­fend­ing unit was placed on leave and de­clared in con­tempt of Congress. The De­part­ment of Jus­tice in­ves­ti­gated and found no ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal­ity.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ja­son Chaf­fetz of Utah, chair­man of the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, has made a pro­fes­sional spe­cialty of be­rat­ing civil ser­vants. He ap­pears to view Kosk­i­nen, who, re­call, joined the agency af­ter the scan­dal, as ob­struct­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Im­peach­ing Kosk­i­nen—a pun­ish­ment not in­voked against an ex­ec­u­tive branch ap­pointee since Ulysses S. Grant oc­cu­pied the White House—prob­a­bly isn’t the ob­jec­tive any­way. The point is to em­bar­rass the IRS. And con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have al­ready done a fine job of that by slash­ing the agency’s bud­get while help­ing to vastly ex­pand its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, with pre­dictably frus­trat­ing re­sults.

Tax­pay­ers are the ones who ul­ti­mately suf­fer when Congress ig­nores more press­ing busi­ness in fa­vor of need­lessly an­tag­o­niz­ing the IRS. They’re also the ones foot­ing the bill for 8,000-page re­ports and sham­bolic im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings.

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