The Internal Revenue Service spent an estimated $49 million on at least 220 conferences for employees over a three-year span beginning in fiscal 2010, according to a forthcoming report that will prompt fresh scrutiny of the already embattled agency.
The findings come as the Obama administration is overhauling the agency after officials said dozens of groups were inappropriately scrutinized as they sought tax-exempt status. The admission forced the resignation of the agency’s acting commissioner and has sparked criminal and congressional investigations.
Seeking to get ahead of the fresh controversy, acting IRS commissioner Daniel Werfel acknowledged the report in a statement late Friday, but he did not share any of the findings. He called the spending “an unfortunate vestige from a prior era” and said the agency has significantly curtailed conference spending in recent years.During a conference in Anaheim, the Washington Post also reports, IRS employees saw taxpayer-financed "training" videos.
The first video is a parody of the “Star Trek” television and movie franchise and stars division employees discussing how they might identify and address allegations of tax fraud. Aides briefed on the audit said employees paid for Star Trek uniforms they wear in the video, but the agency paid for the construction of an elaborate mock-up of the bridge of the starship Enterprise, the vessel used to transport the show’s characters.
Watch the video here ...
Another video aired at the conference stars some of the same employees learning how to dance the “Cupid Shuffle” from a 2007 song by the performer Cupid.
Watch the video here ...
In recent years, the Obama administration has ordered significant cuts in administrative expenses for travel, conferences and the distribution of free “swag,” or promotional materials.
As part of the cutbacks, the IRS began producing training videos to show employees instead of flying them to training sessions in other cities. In one of the training videos produced 2011, employees star in a spoof of “Gilligan’s Island.” Watch the video here ...
At The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan argues that the IRS targeting scandal is different from earlier ones.
In previous IRS scandals it was the powerful abusing the powerful—a White House moving against prominent financial or journalistic figures who, because of their own particular status or the machineries at their disposal, could pretty much take care of themselves. A scandal erupts, there are headlines, and then people go on their way. The dreadful thing about this scandal, what makes it ominous, is that this is the elites versus regular citizens. It’s the mighty versus normal people. It’s the all-powerful directors of the administrative state training their eyes and moving on uppity and relatively undefended Americans.NBC reports:
That’s what makes this scandal different, and why if it’s not stopped now it will never stop. Because every four years you can get yourself a new president and a new White House, but you won’t easily get yourself a whole new administrative state. It’s there, it’s not going away, not anytime soon. If it isn’t forced back into its cage now, and definitively, it will prowl the land hungrily forever.
"We're outstanding public servants, dedicated to our craft and to the public we serve,” said one current IRS Cincinnati employee contacted at home over the weekend, who agreed to speak to NBC News on the condition of anonymity. “To suggest that we're 'rogue' should be considered slander.”
Asked about the motivations for the targeting, the employee said, “I trust my management team."