WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Two Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would reward $1 million to an individual or group that can recover former Internal Revenue Service director Lois Lerner’s lost emails.
Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Bill Flores, R-Texas, introduced the Identify and Recover Sent E-mails (IRS) Act Wednesday.
“It seems that each time the IRS has evidence that will either prove with certainty its guilt or innocence, the evidence disappears which both common sense and the law indicate the evidence such as emails must have proved the IRS’s impropriety if not outright crimes,” Gohmert said in a statement. “It is time the IRS either comes clean, or has a special prosecutor to clean it up. This bill should help in the interim.
On top of the $1 million award for the recovery of the emails, the bill also gives $500,000 for information regarding the destruction of the emails that can lead to the prosecution of those involved.
“I find it very hard to believe that the emails from Lois Lerner are lost and unrecoverable,” Flores said in a statement. “It is very convenient that the IRS is unable to turn over any of the communications from the central figure responsible for the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups. We will not sit idly by as the IRS continues to work to cover up its blatant abuse of government power.”
The IRS said Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011, wiping out an untold number of emails that were being sought by congressional investigators for her role in the agency’s controversy that they improperly scrutinized applications by some Tea Party groups.
The IRS said technicians went to great lengths trying to recover data from Lerner’s computer in 2011. In emails provided by the IRS, technicians said they sent the computer to a forensic lab run by the agency’s criminal investigations unit. But to no avail.
The IRS was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from the 2009 to 2011 because Lerner had copied in other IRS employees. The agency said it pieced together the emails from the computers of 82 other IRS employees.
But an untold number are gone.
Overall, the IRS said it is producing a total of 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering the period from 2009 to 2013.
“The IRS is committed to working with Congress,” the IRS said in a statement. “The IRS has remained focused on being thorough and responding as quickly as possible to the wide-ranging requests from Congress while taking steps to protect underlying taxpayer information.”
Lerner has emerged as a key figure in the Tea Party probe. In May 2013, she was the first IRS official to publicly acknowledge that agents had improperly scrutinized applications.
About two weeks later, Lerner was subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing. But after making a brief statement in which she said she had done nothing wrong, Lerner refused to answer questions, invoking her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
The IRS placed Lerner on administrative leave shortly after the congressional hearing. She retired last fall.
In May, the House voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress. Her case has been turned over to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
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