- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ethics investigators publicly accused several Internal Revenue Service employees and offices Wednesday of engaging in pro-Democratic politics on government time, including one agency office in Dallas where employees posting pro-Obama stickers and buttons was “commonplace.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill said it was more evidence that the embattled tax agency is politically biased against conservative groups, even as they moved ahead with action to discipline the IRS and former employee Lois G. Lerner.

One House committee voted to officially accuse Ms. Lerner of criminal behavior, and another prepared to vote Thursday to hold Ms. Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about her role in scrutinizing tea party applications for tax-exempt status.

SEE ALSO: House committee votes to refer Lerner to Justice Dept. for criminal charges

The criminal accusation and the contempt citation, which will require approval by the full House, are requests of the Justice Department, and it’s unclear how Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will handle them.

“The IRS is out of control,” said Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas, one of the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee to vote for the criminal accusation against Ms. Lerner.

He said accusations of IRS employees politicking on government time hurt Americans’ faith in the agency. “It’s no surprise that this is coming from the very same agency that targeted Americans based on their political beliefs.”

SEE ALSO: Issa: IRS coordinated with Dems to attack tea party group

The Office of Special Counsel, which is charged with enforcing violations of the federal Hatch Act that prohibits most government employees from engaging in politics, listed three violations it found in the past few years.

In one case, a worker at the IRS customer help line urged taxpayers “to re-elect President Obama in 2012 by repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of his last name,” the OSC said. The office is seeking “significant disciplinary action” against that employee.

Another case involved a Kentucky employee who criticized Republicans in a conversation with a taxpayer. “They’re going to take women back 40 years,” the IRS employee said in a conversation that was recorded. The employee also said that “if you vote for a Republican, the rich are going to get richer and the poor are going to get poorer.”

That employee agreed to a 14-day suspension.

The most widespread case was in the Dallas IRS office, the OSC said, where materials promoting Mr. Obama were “commonplace.”

“Specifically, it was alleged that employees have worn partisan political stickers, buttons, and clothing to work and have displayed partisan political screensavers on their IRS computers. It was alleged that these items expressed support for President Barack Obama,” the OSC said in a letter to the Dallas office urging that all employees be reminded of their legal obligations.

The IRS issued a statement saying it couldn’t comment on specifics but vowing it took complaints of politicking seriously.

“The IRS regularly reminds employees of the Hatch Act guidelines,” the agency said.

When suspected violations are reported, the agency said, it follows “proper procedures and protocols.”

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