Partisan Political Chanting at the IRS

COMMENTARY Election Integrity

Partisan Political Chanting at the IRS

Apr 10, 2014 1 min read
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative Manager, Senior Legal Fellow

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues—including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration.
The latest news from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) about illegal political activities at the IRS will certainly not help the administration’s (and Representative Elijah Cummings’) current narrative that there is not a “smidgen of corruption” at the IRS.

OSC is an independent agency that investigates violations of the civil service rules that govern federal employees and the federal statute that protects whistleblowers, as well as violations by federal employees of the Hatch Act, which restricts the political activity of civil servants. One of those rules is an absolute prohibition on partisan political speech and activity in the federal workplace.

On April 9, OSC announced that it was seeking “significant disciplinary action” against an IRS customer-service representative who fielded taxpayer questions on the IRS customer-service helpline. Apparently, the IRS employee “urged taxpayers to reelect President Obama in 2012 by repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of his last name.” OSC did not indicate what the “chant” was, and a spokesman for OCS told me he could not reveal the chant because of privacy rules, since it spelled out the employee’s name.

Another tax specialist in the Kentucky office of the IRS was given a 14-day suspension for telling a taxpayer she was “for” the Democrats because “Republicans already [sic] trying to cap my pension and…they’re going to take women back 40 years.” The tax specialist added that her mother told her that “if you vote for a Republican, the rich are going to get richer and the poor are going to get poorer.”

Unfortunately for the tax specialist, the taxpayer recorded the illicit telephone conversation. The recording even caught the IRS employee telling the taxpayer that “I’m not supposed to voice my opinion so you didn’t hear me saying that.” This particular IRS employee had been advised about the restrictions of the Hatch Act on this type of behavior “just weeks before the conversation,” according to the OSC.

The OSC also announced it had “issued cautionary guidance to all IRS employees” in the Dallas Taxpayer Assistance Center after it received complaints that the employees were “wearing pro-Obama political stickers, buttons, and clothing to work and displaying pro-Obama screensavers on their IRS computers.” It turned out that this was “commonplace throughout the office.” It makes one wonder how much of this was going on in other IRS offices where no one complained.

And it is more evidence that there is bias and partisan political behavior spread throughout the IRS, and not just in the Washington office where Lois Lerner worked before she retired to a nice federal pension.

 - Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation's Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

Originally appeared in the National Review