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POLITICS: White House

The IRS' clean-up guy sure doesn't seem like he knows what he's doing

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,IRS,John Koskinen,Trey Gowdy,Becket Adams

Longtime Washington bureaucrat and current Internal Revenue Service commissioner John Koskinen on Wednesday attempted the impossible: He tried to make his agency appear sympathetic.

No, really; the man who was brought in to clean up the IRS after it revealed in 2013 that it had been targeting conservative groups complained Wednesday that the agency's morale is low because of Congress' attempts to investigate the scandal.

Because when you think Image rehabilitation and the IRS, what better way to win the American people over than to complain about how IRS workers feel put upon?

Koskinen's remarks were prompted by Chicago machine politician Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., who asked during a House subcommittee hearing on Wednesday whether IRS workers have been able to deal with the supposed strain being put on them by investigators.

“When they … are subject to depositions and recorded interviews, it sends — these are all career people — it has a deleterious effect on morale because they thought they were actually doing what they were asked to do,” Koskinen said.

The IRS commissioner lamented the fact that agency officials have had to take time out of their terribly busy days to comply with numerous requests for emails and other recorded correspondences. In fact, some agents are even worried that — wait for this — they may be asked to testify.

“So for everybody else who’s working on this project, they’re now looking over their shoulder worrying about, 'Am I going to get called up next?' ” he said.

Unfortunately for the commissioner, there was at least one lawmaker present at the hearing who wasn't swayed by news that the investigation into the targeting scandal has inconvenienced some IRS workers.

“I really could not believe the colloquy that you had with one of our colleagues about the morale at the IRS,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, said. “It takes a lot to stun me, but that stunned me.”

“Here's a piece of advice I would give. If the folks like Lois Lerner and others would have spent more time working on … their caseload and less time targeting groups and less time trying to overturn Supreme Court decisions they didn't agree with, maybe morale would be better and maybe their backlogs would be less,” he added.

And here's some more advice: If you're tapped to rehabilitate the Image of the IRS, an agency that is universally disliked by a majority of U.S. voters, don't complain about agency officials being asked to comply with an investigation into the agency's admitted targeting.

Also, don't complain about IRS workers worrying about falling under careful scrutiny. Taxpayers live year-to-year worrying about being audited by America's most hated agency.

In short, you're not doing a very good job winning over the American people, Mr. Koskinen. In fact, you're making it sound like you all are just a tad bit out of touch, further increasing the rift between taxpayer and tax collector.

Isn't this the exact opposite of what you were brought on to accomplish?

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