IRS Overkill on Tea Party: 64 Million Pages of Records
Policy + Politics

IRS Overkill on Tea Party: 64 Million Pages of Records

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Information overload just hit the scandalous IRS targeting of conservative Tea Party groups.

The IRS has identified 646 gigabytes of electronic data that’s “potentially relevant” to the controversy, according to a letter from acting commissioner Danny Werfel to the House Ways and Means Committee that was released Wednesday afternoon.

That translates into more than 64 million pages, Werfel said.

All of that data must be decrypted, and then--because the decryption process corrupts files--manually repaired “before the search process can begin.” The IRS plans a rolling production schedule, but it will be a long summer sorting out basic questions about why the agency intentionally scrutinized conservative groups applying for nonprofit status starting in March, 2010.

“Based on the limited information we have received, it is clear that this investigation is far greater in breadth and scope than many may have imagined when the Treasury Inspector General first issued its report,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) said in a statement. “The sheer volume of documents and the work that must be done to finish interviews and review the information provided by the IRS will require both time and patience.”

The targeting became public last month in advance of an audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. It was initially blamed on “rogue” agents in the Cincinnati field office, but House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said this week his interviews with IRS employees refute the excuse originally provided by the tax collector’s management.

Several polls indicate that the controversy has caused trust to erode in President Obama, who maintains that he first learned about the targeting from news reports.

In addition to the Tea Party fiasco, a separate inspector general’s report issued this week found that the IRS spent $49 million on 225 conferences from 2010 to 2012. The expenditures included knickknacks for IRS employees, parody “Star Trek” and “Gilligan’s Island” videos, and a conference speaker who painted the portraits of Michael Jordan, U2 singer Bono, and Albert Einstein.

Stemming from that audit, the IRS announced Wednesday the suspension of two managers for accepting $1,162 in free food at a 2010 conference in California. Like Lois Lerner, the IRS official who oversaw the Tea Party scrutiny, the managers were was placed on paid administrative leave. 

In a sign that the White House may struggle to escape the vortex of this scandal, one of the managers placed on leave is reportedly Fred Schindler, the IRS director of implementation oversight for Obamacare.