Levin's Opening Statement on IRS Investigation Hearing
(Targeted News Service Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) WASHINGTON, June 20 -- Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich. (9th CD), issued the following statement:
On Sept. 11, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service provided this Committee with one of the 770,000 pages of documents it has turned over since Ways and Means undertook its investigation into the IRS in May 2013. In total, more than 250 IRS employees have spent over 120,000 hours working to produce documents at a cost of at least $16 million to taxpayers.
That document received last September included an email from Lois Lerner to other IRS personnel dated June 14, 2011. It began, "My computer crashed yesterday."
We now know the full extent of that equipment failure. Despite an exhaustive effort by forensic IT professionals at the Internal Revenue Service, they were unable to save her hard drive and her emails between January 1, 2009 and April 2011.
Although her emails from January 2009 to April 2011 are unrecoverable from her hard drive, the IRS will produce 67,000 emails related to Lois Lerner. The IRS has or will be producing 24,000 emails that have been recovered from the period before her computer crashed. They recovered these emails from other IRS employees. That is on top of more than 43,000 emails involving Ms. Lerner after April 2011 that already have been produced.
There is absolutely no evidence to show that Ms. Lerner's computer crash was anything more than equipment failure. At the time of the incident, in June 2011, IRS computer experts reviewed the issue and informed Lois Lerner that "unfortunately, the news is not good. The sectors on the hard drive were bad, which made your data unrecoverable."
Was her computer crash a conspiracy? No.
Was the Internal Revenue Service's system for backing up its email system entirely underfunded and wholly deficient? Yes.
In fact, Congress has cut the IRS budget for operations - which includes what it spends on computers and other information technology - every year for the last five years. House Republicans are proposing to slash it once again next year.
Commissioner Koskinen, whom we welcome here today, has informed this Committee that the IRS has $1 billion worth of computer equipment and that the agency should be spending $150 million to $200 million on maintenance for that equipment. Instead, the agency spends virtually nothing, because it can't afford to properly maintain what it has.
It is important to remember that emails were routinely lost during the Bush administration. In one instance in 2007, according to a report from Democrats on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Bush White House acknowledged having lost nearly 5 million emails between March 2003 and October 2005 related to allegations of the politically motivated dismissal of U.S. Attorneys.
Lost data under the Bush Administration coupled with the number of computer crashes at the IRS clearly demonstrate the need for government agencies to have adequate budgets to invest, upgrade, and maintain information technology.
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have taken this opportunity to rehash well-worn allegations of White House involvement - allegations that Republicans have made from the very moment the Inspector General released his report more than a year ago.
On the day the report was released, before a congressional investigation into the issue had even begun, Chairman Issa accused the White House of "targeting its political enemies."
Three days later, Chairman Camp, in your opening statement during the first hearing on this matter, you accused the White House of a "culture of cover-up."
Congressional Republicans are so determined to find a needle in the haystack that they seek desperately to add to the haystack even though no needle has been discovered.
It was in that vein that Chairman Camp this week said that "this entire case started with the White House" and sent a letter to the President requesting all correspondence between Lois Lerner and the Executive Office of the President between January 2009 and May 2011, the period before Ms. Lerner's hard drive crashed.
The White House has conducted that search and what have they found? There was not a single email correspondence sent to or from Ms. Lerner and the White House.
This Committee has been involved in this investigation for over a year. Here is what we have learned: The 501(c)(4) applications of both conservative and progressive groups were inappropriately screened. There were long delays in processing applications. There was serious mismanagement and I was among the first to call for Ms. Lerner and then-Commissioner Miller to be relieved of their duties.
In all of the 770,000 pages of documents that the IRS has supplied congressional committees, including ours, there has not been any evidence of political motivation or White House involvement.
Now there have been computer failures at the IRS, and Republican conspiracy theories have started anew.
The evidence to date reinforces the long-evident truth: The prevailing conspiracy in this matter is that of the Republican desire to stir their base, tie the problem to the White House, and keep up this drumbeat until the November election.
I'm glad that Commissioner Koskinen is here with us today to set the record straight. Commissioner Koskinen started as the IRS Commissioner last December after a distinguished career in the private and public sectors. At OMB, at Freddie Mac and as the Chair of President Clinton's Y2K computer council. We welcome your testimony, Commissioner.
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