Republican demands copy of IRS's 'Star Trek' parody

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Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Oversight, sent a letter to the IRS following up on a previous request for more information. The IRS's response to the initial request, Boustany wrote, was insufficient. 

"Given the IRS's requests for additional resources, it is important to determine whether and to what extent taxpayer resources were devoted to activities unrelated to your agency's core functions," the Louisiana congressman wrote in the letter. "A response, including copies of the videos was due by the IRS on February 19. I am writing today because your response, dated March 4, 2013, was materially incomplete."

Boustany asked for more information on the videos.

"Your letter admits that $60,000 in taxpayer money was used to produce two specific video segments; a Star Trek parody and skit based on the television sitcom Gilligan's Island," Boustany wrote. "My request was for production of those videos to the subcommittee. Your offer 'to make both videos available for viewing' is not responsive to the original request.

"While committee staff agreed to travel to the IRS and view the videos as an initial matter, it continued to be the prerogative of the committee to insist that a copy of the video be provided. Since then the request for the Star Trek video has been reiterated, but the IRS has refused to comply."

Boustany also wants a full "accounting of all costs associated with the production of the Star Trek video" as well as communications related to the production of the video and records of taxpayer money that went through the New Carrollton studio like leasing expenses and personnel costs.

In the initial response to Boustany's inquiry, IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller said both of the video segments had to do with employee training.

"Your letter refers to two specific video segments. The first segment opened a training and leadership conference in 2010 that trained IRS employees on a wide variety of topics, including tax law updates, strategic issues, and employee management and safety issues," Miller said. "We believe the second segment you references is the introductory portion of a 2011 video training series that discussed, among other topics, IRS tools to deliver quality taxpayer service."

One of the videos, Miller added, saved money for the agency.

"The 2011 series was used to train taxpayer assistance employees in approximately 400 locations across the United States, saving an estimated $1.5 million as compared to the potential costs to train these employees in person. We believe the combined production costs, including participant staff hour costs, for the 2010 video segment and the introductory segment of the 2011 training series were approximately $60,000. "

Miller says his agency is "happy to make both videos available for viewing."