IRS Officials Illegally Campaigned for Obama While Working

Friday, April 11, 2014

Multiple employees of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have been caught campaigning for President Barack Obama while on the job in 2012, putting them in violation of federal law.


The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal agency, announced it had uncovered three cases of IRS workers violating the Hatch Act of 1939 (pdf), which bars federal employees from engaging in partisan campaign activities.


The illegal activities ranged from employees encouraging callers to vote for Obama to in-person conversations with taxpayers in which Republicans were disparaged.


One IRS staffer allegedly encouraged taxpayers to reelect Obama by “repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of [the president's] last name,” according to OSC, which filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board against the customer-service representative. The employee faces “significant disciplinary action,” the watchdog agency said.


Another IRS worker, a tax-advisory specialist, was suspended from work for 14 days after she made critical remarks about Republicans in front of a customer. The employee was quoted as saying: “Republicans already [sic] trying to cap my pension and … they’re trying to take women back 40 years.”


The third case involved multiple workers at an IRS taxpayer-assistance center in Dallas who brought pro-Obama paraphernalia (stickers, buttons, etc.) into work, which violated federal workplace rules.


More serious and extensive violations of federal laws and regulations occurred under President George W. Bush. Prior to the 2006 midterm elections, numerous White House staffers and seven cabinet secretaries violated the Hatch Act by doing campaign work for Republican candidates, OSC reported in 2011. During a six-year period, the White House Office of Political Affairs was used to aid Republicans running for office, with agency officials delivering briefings at government agencies urging “the electoral success of the Republican Party, and possible strategies for achieving it,” according to an OSC report (pdf) on White House political activities in the Bush administration.


In addition, the administration systematically misused federal resources, according to OSC, by having cabinet members travel to congressional districts for “politically motivated” reasons and later declare the trips were official business so the government could pick up the tab. There were more than 100 such trips taken by Bush cabinet members, including the secretaries of the Interior, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs, according to OSC’s three-year investigation.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Watchdog: IRS Workers Urged Taxpayers to Reelect Obama, Disparaged GOP (by Josh Hicks, Washington Post)

Pro-Obama Chant Lands IRS Customer Service Employee in Hot Water (by Charles Clark, Government Executive)

George W. Bush Staff Illegally Used Taxpayer Funds for Political Purposes (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

 Bush Cabinet Secretaries Illegally Campaigned at Taxpayer Expense, Report Finds (by Devin Dwyer, ABC News)

GSA Chief Violated Hatch Act, Special Counsel's Report Alleges (by Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Scott Higham, Washington Post)

Investigation of Political Activities by White House and Federal Agency Officials during the 2006 Midterm Elections (U.S. Office of Special Counsel) (pdf)


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