Watchdog finds IRS employees promoted Obama in 2012

IRS employees encouraged taxpayers to vote for President Obama during his 2012 reelection campaign and disparaged Republicans, a federal ethics watchdog said Wednesday.

One IRS customer representative urged people calling into the agency to vote for Obama by “repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of his last name,” the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said in its announcement

The office is responsible for investigating cases in which people violate the Hatch Act, which bans federal employees from engaging in partisan campaign activities.

In that case, officials are “seeking significant disciplinary action.” 

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A Kentucky-based tax advisory specialist was also found promoting her allegiance to the Democratic Party in an official phone call with a taxpayer during the 2012 election cycle. The IRS employee will serve a 14-day suspension as a result of promoting her political views, the OSC said.

“Republicans already [sic] trying to cap my pension and ... they’re going to take women back 40 years,” she told a female taxpayer in one phone call. 

The IRS worker said her mother always told her, “If you vote for a Republican, the rich are going to get richer, and the poor are going to get poorer.”

A supervisor had allegedly informed the employee about the Hatch Act’s rules a week earlier.

“I’m not supposed to voice my opinion, so you didn’t hear me saying that,” she said during the phone call.

IRS employees based at a Dallas center wore pro-Obama political stickers, buttons and clothing to work, the OSC said. They also used pro-Obama screensavers on their computers.

The OSC later cautioned the employees not to “wear or display any items advocating for or against a political party, partisan political group, or partisan candidate in the workplace.”

Investigators couldn’t determine whether the workers did this before or after the 2012 election.

This news comes the same day the House Ways and Means Committee voted to refer former IRS official Lois Lerner to the Justice Department. She resigned in September because of her connection to the IRS’s targeting of advocacy groups during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. 

On Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is expected to vote on a contempt resolution due to Lerner’s decision not to testify before the panel.