A nice catch by Mary Lou Byrd at the Free Beacon, and an instant rebuttal to claims that the destruction of e-mails related to the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS is a budget issue. When Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee haven’t busied themselves with obsequious apologies to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for the Republicans holding his agency accountable for abuse of power, they and other defenders of the IRS complained that the real lesson of the epidemic of hard-drive failures and data losses is that the IRS really needs more money. According to government records, though, the IRS has spent more than $4 billion on information technology over the last five years:
The IRS under the Obama Administration has spent over $4 billion on contracts labeled under information technology and software despite IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testifying this week that budgetary restraints prevented the agency from spending $10 million to save and store emails.
Koskinen said “declining budget resources” at the IRS caused the agency decided to reject spending the $10 million needed to ensure emails were properly secured.
A review of IRS spending by the Free Beacon shows the agency has spent a massive amount on what it labeled as IT/software and data processing contracts in the past five fiscal years. The official government’s spending website shows the IRS spent $4.4 billion during this time period.
That improves on the Bush administration funding for IRS’ IT efforts, but not by a huge percentage. Over eight years, the IRS spent $5.3 billion on IT during the Bush years, making for almost ten billion dollars spent over the last 13 years. That’s an average of $746 million a year over that period, and $880 million a year during the Obama administration. With that kind of money, it’s difficult to explain why the IRS could afford the kind of data storage that the federal government requires publicly-held corporations to use in Sarbanes-Oxley regulation, and indeed what the IRS is required to do under federal law as well. And this data makes it very clear that budget resources were not “declining” at all at the IRS, at least not in the IT budget, despite what Koskinen claims.
That’s not the only questionable claim from the IRS commissioner, either. Last night, Koskinen appeared on CNN to tell Wolf Blitzer that he’s expecting an interim report from the Inspector General soon, and that losing e-mails isn’t the same as losing official records:
- Email messages are official documents and should reflect this perspective. Email communications can be offered as evidence in court and can be legally binding. Before sending an email, you must consider how it reflects on the Service’s image and take into account privacy, records management, and security factors.
And there’s also this at 18.104.22.168.3:
- All federal employees and federal contractors are required by law to preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency. Records must be properly stored and preserved, available for retrieval and subject to appropriate approved disposition schedules.
- The Federal Records Act applies to email records just as it does to records you create using other media. Emails are records when they are:
- Created or received in the transaction of agency business
- Appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function and activities, or
- Valuable because of the information they contain
Maybe Koskinen should take the time to learn his own agency’s regulations, even before learning the law of spoliation. And perhaps Democrats should consider just how it looks to set themselves up as the chief defenders and apologists for the IRS and the painfully obvious arrogance coming from its chief bureaucrat. Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein reluctantly concurred with Mark Halperin on Morning Joe today that the optics of Democratic incuriosity about IRS abuse of power looks awful:
Democrats like having the IRS act as the speech police, but cheering for the IRS is a lot less prevalent among Americans outside the Beltway.