Ken Connor

If ever a federal agency has made ineptitude into an art form, it has to be the IRS. After months of stonewalling and grandstanding and Fifth Amendment privilege-pleading before congressional committees, Lois Lerner and the IRS are now the subject of a federal lawsuit. In response to charges that they unfairly impeded the tax-exempt application of the organization "True the Vote," for political reasons, the IRS is invoking "the dog ate my homework" defense

In sworn affidavits filed in court by top IRS muckety-mucks, the IRS maintains that Lois Lerner's computer was sent out to be fixed by a private contractor because of an alleged problem with its hard drive. When the contractor was unable to retrieve the lost data, the computer was forwarded to the IRS's criminal unit forensics lab, which was also unable to recover any data. At that point the computer's hard drive was "degaussed" and batched with other defunct computer components for destruction and/or recycling by an outside contractor. And since the IRS doesn't assign serial numbers to internal computer parts, there's no way to track it down.

In short, the same group that requires private citizens to retain financial records for up to seven years under penalty of law is saying that they are unable to produce two years' worth of electronic correspondence relating directly to an active legal investigation, and furthermore that even if backup tapes of Ms. Lerner's emails did exist at one point, they most likely have been erased since the IRS only retains email records for six months. Six months! The IRS's six months to Joe Taxpayer's seven years. Apparently what's good for the citizen goose is not good for the government gander.

In the law, there is a doctrine called "spoliation of evidence" which basically says when a litigant has destroyed relevant evidence which is sought by the other side, the fact finder may infer that the evidence would have been adverse to the position of the one who destroyed it. This makes sense, as there would be no rational motive for someone to destroy evidence that would prove their innocence in the court of law and the court of public opinion.


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.
 


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