Watchdog Faults IRS over Star Trek Video, Luxury Hotel Suites

Tuesday, 04 Jun 2013 12:12 PM

 

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A spoof Star Trek video and lavish hotel suites for government workers were singled out on Tuesday by a government watchdog in criticizing the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's conference planning and budgeting from 2010 through 2012.

In a report that the IRS has already acknowledged as pointing out "inappropriate" spending, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) faulted the agency specifically for a 2010 conference in Anaheim, California, that cost $4.1 million.

Some of the funding for the conference came from unused monies originally intended for hiring enforcement employees, TIGTA chief J. Russell George said in the report.

Urgent: Is Obama Telling the Truth on IRS, Benghazi Scandals?

"Certain of the IRS's expenses associated with the Anaheim conference do not appear to be a good use of taxpayer funds," said George, whose watchdog office has played a key role in the controversy that engulfed the IRS more than three weeks ago.

Amid allegations that it unfairly targeted conservative political activists' applications for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny, the IRS has seen its top executive ousted by President Barack Obama and its reputation damaged.

Also Tuesday, conservative political activists told a House of Representatives committee in emotional testimony that their groups were targeted by the IRS over the years.

At the fifth hearing in the past two weeks on the issue, House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Republican, said the IRS three years ago began targeting taxpayers based on their political beliefs.

"What we still need to find out, is just how widespread this activity was, who ordered it and why it began," Camp said.

The TIGTA report was slated to be the topic of another hearing scheduled for Thursday. Excerpts of the report were leaked in recent days.

The report found that the IRS spent $50,187 on videos for the Anaheim conference in 2010, including a Star Trek parody that featured IRS executives portraying characters from the television show in a tax-themed skit.

The IRS told TIGTA that the purpose of the video was to highlight issues facing the Small Business/Self Employed Division of the agency, according to the report.

The report said hotel suites were occupied by IRS executives at the conference. The division's commissioner, for example, stayed five nights in a suite with a private bedroom, living area, conference table, wet bar, and billiard table, it said.

IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel told a congressional panel on Monday he would clean up the agency, including potentially firing those responsible for using terms such as "Tea Party" and "patriot" to help sift through tax-exempt status applications for extra scrutiny.

Congressional committees are in full investigatory mode, with at least three demanding reams of emails, correspondence and other documents from the IRS.

Urgent: Is Obama Telling the Truth on IRS, Benghazi Scandals?

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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