IRS Worker Suspended for Pro-Obama Activities While on the Job

Thursday, 10 Jul 2014 07:15 PM

By Todd Beamon

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An IRS employee was suspended for 100 days without pay for directing callers to a help line to vote for President Barack Obama in his re-election bid in 2012, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said on Thursday.

The office, an independent watchdog agency, said in a statement that the employee had "repeatedly urged taxpayers to re-elect President Obama in 2012 by delivering a chant based on the spelling of the employee's last name."

The worker was not named in the OSC's statement.

In a settlement, the worker "acknowledged that he had used his authority and influence as an IRS customer service representative for a political purpose and did so while at work," the statement said.

The employee agreed in the settlement that he had violated the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that bars federal workers from running as political candidates or from soliciting contributions and promoting candidates while on their federal job in a federal workplace.

The agency filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board in April, the statement said.

In an unrelated case, the OSC said that it had fired a Postal Service employee, Marcus Lewis, who had run in two congressional elections in Illinois and had solicited contributions for those campaigns.

Lewis ran as an independent candidate for the House last year and in 2012 despite warnings from the agency, the statement said.

But the IRS settlement marked the third time in recent months that agency employees have been found to have violated the Hatch Act, The Washington Times reports.

In May, the OSC said that the IRS office in Dallas was warned after complaints that it was "commonplace" to have pro-Obama screensavers on computers and to have campaign-like buttons at the office.

In addition, a Kentucky IRS worker was suspended for 14 days after slamming Republicans in a conversation with a taxpayer over the phone.

None of the IRS cases are linked to the agency's targeting of conservative groups, but Rep. Charles Boustany charged that the recent settlement was yet another example of the Internal Revenue Service being "totally out of control."

"This latest development exposes a culture that tolerates or even encourages politically motivated activities, contrary to the agency's mission and purpose," the Louisiana Republican said in a statement. "This is inexcusable.

"If the IRS wishes to preserve what little credibility it has with the American people, they will immediately terminate this employee and conduct a thorough internal review into this matter."

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