Ethical meltdowns such as the IRS targeting scandal are rarely the work of a few rogue employees but the result of a "toxic culture," according to Steven Law, president and CEO of Crossroads GPS, one of the groups investigated by the agency.
In an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal
on Thursday, Law, a former chief of staff at the Labor Department during the Enron scandal, argues that, like Enron, wrongdoing at the IRS likely was the result of the tone set at the top of the organization, starting with the president's public demonization of conservative groups.
"As the nation's top law enforcer, Mr. Obama singled out groups such as Americans for Prosperity by name and suggested they could be taking illegal foreign funds. That's toxic culture from the C-Suite," he wrote, comparing the president and those at the top of the IRS to senior executives at Enron.
Law also argues that Congress shares the blame for the scandal, given that a number of members urged the IRS to investigate specific groups.
"The point of all this is that reforming the IRS will require a lot more than disciplining a few rogue employees. The entire command structure that ordered, acquiesced to or overlooked the political-targeting campaign needs to be uprooted and replaced," wrote Law.
"As an old political hand once told me, 'There's never just one cockroach.' The IRS scandal wasn't the work of a few isolated employees. It was fostered by a culture that many powerful people in Washington helped create — and it will take time and hard-nosed action to eradicate it."
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