- - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sometimes real news becomes parody. Over at the Internal Revenue Service, where nobody seems to be in charge, one of the managers of the ethics office faces disbarment for unethical conduct.

Three years ago, the tax-collection agency hired one Takisha McGee and gave her supervisory authority in the Office of Professional Responsibility. She travels the country to lecture IRS agents and tax preparers on how to conduct themselves to the highest standards of integrity.

Poor, sleepy Takisha McGee. She apparently took a snooze when her law school professors instructed students that they should not steal from clients. Two of the clients Ms. McGee represented won a personal-injury case and their settlement money went mysteriously missing. The clients called, emailed and sent fax messages to Ms. McGee to find out what was going on. She didn’t answer. The clients wanted their money, but Ms. McGee by now had been hired by the IRS, and she had no time to talk to them.

The D.C. Bar investigated and concluded that Ms. McGee put the missing cash in her pocket and lied about it. A committee of the D.C. Court of Appeals heard the case against her and concluded: “In addition to intentionally misappropriating third-party funds, [Ms. McGee] also violated a number of other ethics rules and gave false testimony during the hearing. Disbarment is appropriate in this case.”

So what to do with an an ethics lawyer with ethical problems? Given the law and regulations, it’s effectively impossible to fire someone who goes astray like Takisha McGee. So the IRS did the next best thing in the IRS book. The agency sent her to Orlando, Fla., the home of Mickey Mouse, to give a lecture titled (and we’re definitely not making this up) “When Your License to Practice Before the IRS is on the Line.” But who can deny that she is in a place to know what she’s talking about?

As our Jim McElhatton reported, the wheels of justice turn slowly, and the fate of Ms. McGee’s license to practice has yet to be fully determined. Given all the legal trouble at the IRS resulting from the agency’s unlawful targeting of Tea Party groups, John Koskinen, the commissioner of the IRS, should consider paying closer attention to what’s going on in the ethics office. He might consider staffing it with lawyers who aren’t under suspicion for violating ethics.

Such a novel idea might spread through other departments of the government, maybe even the Justice Department. Someone there appointed Andrew C. Strelka as the official representative of the IRS in civil legal proceedings related to the targeting scandal. Before Mr. Strelka went to the Justice Department, he worked for Lois Lerner in the Exempt Organizations (EO) division of the IRS, and he participated in the targeting of conservative groups.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week released emails that show Mr. Strelka received the infamous “be on the lookout for a tea party case” email from his superiors. Two years ago, Mr. Strelka sent a touching note to Mrs. Lerner saying, “I still feel an EO connection … I cherished my time in the EO family, and I owe a big thanks to you for hiring me.”

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, the oversight panel’s chairman, and Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, cite this close relationship as another reason to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS. “This new information about additional conflicts of interest within the Justice Department,” they wrote, “shows that almost every facet of the Department with an interest in the IRS targeting investigation is compromised.”

If this is the most ethical administration in history, full of integrity, honor, probity, uprightness — and without even a “smidgen” of corruption, as President Obama boasts it is, we don’t want to see what an unethical administration looks like. Probably like a parody.