The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent Federal agency that investigates prohibited personnel practices, has found that Internal Revenue Service employees carried their active enthusiasm for President Barack Obama into the workplace even as the IRS’s behind-the-scenes discrimination against conservative groups was unfolding.
OSC revealed Wednesday it had uncovered three separate instances of improper or illegal employee transgressions of the Hatch Act of 1939, which forbids the vast majority of executive branch employees from participating in partisan political activities while on the job. All three cases involved employees who favored Obama’s re-election in 2012.
From OSC’s press release, dated April 9:
- Yesterday [April 8], OSC filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) seeking disciplinary action against an IRS customer service representative who engaged in activity prohibited by the Hatch Act. OSC’s investigation found evidence that the IRS employee used his authority and influence as a customer service representative for a political purpose and engaged in prohibited political activity while in the IRS workplace. Specifically, OSC’s complaint charges that, when fielding taxpayers’ questions from an IRS customer service help line, the employee urged taxpayers to reelect President Obama in 2012 by repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of his last name. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the employee’s Hatch Act knowledge, OSC is seeking significant disciplinary action.
- A tax advisory specialist in Kentucky will serve a 14-day suspension for promoting her partisan political views to a taxpayer she was assisting during the 2012 Presidential election season. OSC received a recorded conversation in which the employee told 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.” She continued to explain that her mom always said, “‘If you vote for a Republican, the rich are going to get richer and the poor are going to get poorer.’ And I went, ‘You’re right.’ I found that out.” The employee’s supervisor had advised her about the Hatch Act’s restrictions just weeks before the conversation. The employee told the taxpayer, “I’m not supposed to voice my opinion, so you didn’t hear me saying that.” Following OSC’s investigation, the employee entered into a settlement agreement with OSC in April 2014. In the agreement, she admitted to violating the Hatch Act’s restrictions against engaging in political activity while on duty and in the workplace and using her official authority or influence to affect the result of an election.
- OSC received allegations that employees working in the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in Dallas, Texas, violated the Hatch Act by wearing pro-Obama political stickers, buttons, and clothing to work and displaying pro-Obama screensavers on their IRS computers. It could not be determined whether these materials were displayed prior to the November 2012 election or only afterwards. However, since the information OSC received alleged that these items were commonplace throughout the office, OSC issued cautionary guidance to all IRS employees in the Dallas Taxpayer Assistance Center that they cannot wear or display any items advocating for or against a political party, partisan political group, or partisan candidate in the workplace.
This finding, reported the same day that the House Oversight Committee voted to hand former Exempt Divisions Director Lois Lerner over to the do-nothing Obama Department of Justice, corroborates a corrupt partisan culture within the agency during the Obama years.
As blogger John Hayward observed Wednesday at Human Events: “[I]t seems clear that these individuals were quite aware that what they did was wrong. The ‘will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’ theory of the IRS scandal is bolstered – nobody had to write a smoking-gun memo ordering the Tea Party hit, when a few nudges from high-profile Democrat politicians was sufficient to get the ball rolling. That asterisk after Obama’s re-election just keeps getting bigger.”