Rewriting history to support the omnibus

Wall Street Journal as quoted by TaxProfThe tax bill also blocks the practice of IRS employees using personal email for official business. The use of personal email by Lois Lerner, then head of the tax-exempt division, became a stumbling block for investigators trying to discover what happened.

While blocking the use of personal email for official business is a step forward (and should be applied to the whole government, not just the IRS), the claim that Lois Lerner's use of personal email interfered with the investigation is at best speculative and at worst misleading. While Lerner did have personal email accounts and did occasionally comment on work-related matters with those accounts, there's no particular reason to think that she did so any more or less than other IRS employees or that her use of a personal email address was particularly nefarious. Congress has released a few of her personal emails with politically embarrassing statements, but describing those statements as "official business" would be a stretch.

The real problem with Lerner's email was threefold.

First, her official email record -- the one that the IRS searched to respond to Congress -- was stored on her personal computer, and that record was incomplete due to a "computer crash" that happened when Lerner first learned Congress was investigating her targeting activities. That is, even if Lerner was using her official email for conducting illegal targeting, she did not turn over those records. And the IRS was foolish to rely on her to do so.

Second, when the Inspector General tracked down the backup tapes from the email server, they found out that those tapes had been deliberately destroyed shorty before the IG located them with a flimsy excuse given for the destruction. Thus, again, even if Lerner had been using her official email for her illegal activities, the IRS destroyed the records.

Third, Lerner was likely not using email at all to coordinate her activities, at least not after the initial scare letter from Congress. One of the few emails recovered from Lerner's account is her inquiry to the IRS IT team about whether the instant messaging records were logged or not. She was told they were not logged (though they could be if turned on) and her reply was "Perfect."

So while Clinton's scandal revolves around the use of personal email for official business, Lerner's scandal revolves around covering up the contents of her official email account or simply not using email at all.

That doesn't mean that requiring IRS officials to use official email rather than personal email is a bad idea, it's just not a very useful or effective reform to address the problems that Lerner revealed in the system.

And, compared to all the other things that the omnibus legislation gave up, it's pathetic.

This entry was published Sun Dec 20 10:39:36 CST 2015 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2015-12-20 10:39:36.0. [Tweet]

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