The Free Press, Mankato, MN


July 8, 2014

IRS scandal needs a special investigator

Why it matters: After a year of congressional inquiries, no one has any answers about questionable IRS targeting.

Testifying at a House committee hearing recently, Internal Revenue Services Commissioner John Koskinen did nothing to enlighten Congress or the public about a now year-old scandal about whether his agency improperly targeted conservative groups.

Instead, Koskinen evades questions and gave answers about missing e-mails that likely left most Americans doubting his honesty.

The scandal centers on how the IRS treated groups seeking tax-exempt status. The number of groups seeking tax-exemption have risen dramatically in recent years, leaving many wondering if they are legitimate not-for-profits or political groups using the tax exemption to hide their donor lists.

While the IRS should have legitimate concerns about who was filing for tax-exempt status and why, they are accused of unfairly targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Those accusations were certain to set up a politically charged atmosphere as the Republican-led House began its inquiries — and they did as not one, but two House investigations collapsed amid partisanship

Then things got worse after the IRS waited for months before telling Congress that several of its computer hard drives crashed, destroying e-mails that Congress had been seeking to discover more about the alleged targeting of conservative groups.

During his testimony, Koskinen offered no apology for the failure to disclose the loss of the e-mails and offered little else that answered anyone’s questions.

There are too many unanswered questions about the actions of the IRS and little chance more House investigations will produce anything.

It is time for a special investigator to look into the matter. That could be a special prosecutor, but several past experiences with such prosecutors have been disappointing, expensive and often veer into other long investigations — remember special prosecutor Ken Starr and the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinski investigation.

A better approach may be to find someone respected by both parties who is given enough authority to vigorously investigate the matter without partisanship tainting the inquiry.

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