Treasury Omits All IRS and Other Bureaus' Conference Costs in 2012 Response to Coburn; Politico Calls It 'Incomplete Disclosure'

June 9th, 2013 4:59 PM

Although there are stories at Fox News and the Daily Caller, there appears to be almost no interest on the part of the establishment press in covering the Treasury Department's failure to report over 99% of its conference costs when Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn asked for an itemized listing a year ago.

The Politico, the repository for stories which cause Democrats and the left discomfort that the rest of the press would prefer to ignore ("Oh, the Politico did something with it, so we don't have to"), buried the item in a "Morning Tax" report Thursday. Writer Lauren French held off as long as she possibly could presenting how the $50 million in omitted IRS costs dwarfed the measly $500,000 which was reported (paragraph breaks added by me; bolds are mine throughout this post):

Coburn questions incomplete disclosure from Treasury

MORE MISSED DISCLOSURES. The inspector general audit detailing the nearly $50 million the IRS spent on conferences shocked members of Congress. But none more than Sen. Tom Coburn.

That’s because the Oklahoma Republican had already been told by the Treasury Department of each conference the department held from 2005 to 2012 — and that response did not mention any of the 200 IRS conferences included in the IG report.

The Treasury, responding from a 2012 request from Coburn, said it hosted only five conferences with more than 50 staffers and the cost for the events were under $500,000. Now Coburn is asking Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to explain the discrepancy.

“This information appears to be very relevant to the initial request, but we did not receive it. In light of these reports, it appears that the response provided by Treasury was inaccurate and incomplete.

... I have attached my initial letter for your review. In light of recent events, I request your department re-examine its files and ensure that it has shared with me all date responsive to my initial request,” wrote Coburn, the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The senator has also asked the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to review “why the IRS conference data was omitted from the response.”

Coburn's original April 16, 2012 letter (at Page 3 in the document embedded here) asked for, among other things:

a)"Total cost of agency travel related to conferences."
b) "The number and a full listing of all conferences attended by your employees during each fiscal year."

People who think like government-employed weasels might contend that Coburn didn't frame his requests properly. Item a) could be nuanced to only include the Treasury Department's own conferences but none of those held by its "bureaus" which "make up 98% of the Treasury work force": The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, The Bureau of Engraving & Printing, The Community Development Financial Institution Fund, The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, The Financial Management Service, The Inspector General, The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, The Internal Revenue Service, The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the U.S. Mint.

Nice try, but it doesn't fly. That's because item b) in Coburn's letter refers to "your employees." Before the weasels pounce, consider what I was able to find in just three minutes at the IRS's web site in the Internal Revenue Manual: (07-13-2005)
Use of Tax Information in Tax or Tax-Related Bank Secrecy Act and Money Laundering Investigations

7. If the related statute call is made, the disclosure of returns and return information to Treasury Department employees, including IRS employees, for use in the criminal investigation is permissible under IRC §6103(h)(1).

In other words, the IRS considers its employees to be a subset of all Treasury Department employees.

Additionally, and removing any conceivable doubt, it took another minute or so to find the Treasury Department's "Careers at Treasury" page, which shows that it considers all employees at all bureaus to be their employees:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has a distinguished history dating back to the founding of our nation. As the steward of U.S. economic and financial systems, Treasury is a major and influential leader in today’s global economy. We have over 100,000 employees across the country and around the world.

That sound you hear is that of the weasels scurrying back to their natural homes: "nooks and crannies, holes on trees and under rocks."

Bottom line: Treasury give Coburn far less than 1% of what he requested, and dishonestly pretended it was everything he needed. This isn't "incomplete disclosure," as Politico's French would have it. It's deliberate and despicable deception.

The establishment press would never apply an "incomplete disclosure" label in an similar situation involving a Republican or conservative administration.

Coburn's office should have pushed back when it received Treasury's response 39 days later in May 2012 (Pages 5-6 at the embedded document); a seasoned staffer should have recognized the puny dollar amount listed as ridiculously incomplete on its face.

But Treasury's Alistair M. Fitzpayne in my view deliberately participated in the deception of Coburn's office when he wrote the following in his cover letter (emphasis mine): "As a department, we have taken care to be judicious in expenditures on travel and meetings." That gives the reader the impression that Fitzpayne's response covers the entire Treasury Department, obviously including its bureaus, and not merely non-bureau personnel. As noted, Coburn's people should have known better, but they clearly didn't. Of course, the primary blame still belongs to the deceivers at the Treasury Department.

Understandably, Coburn is currently concentrating on the $50 million in omitted Internal Revenue Service conference costs, but there is obviously much more to the story -- namely all such expenditures at Treasury's other nine bureaus besides the IRS.

As to media coverage, the Associated Press is noted as having contributed to the Fox News report mentioned at the beginning of this post. But, as seen in the results of a search at the wire service's national site on the Oklahoma senator's last name which returns nothing relevant, what it contributed had nothing to do with Treasury's deception. Given the nine unreported bureaus, the amount of conference spending Treasury hid from Coburn could easily top $100 million or go much higher.

A Google News search on "Coburn IRS" (not in quotes, sorted by date, with duplicates) done at 4:15 p.m. ET returned only eight relevant results dated June 5 or later; for some reason, either the Fox News or Politico items noted earlier are among them (the Daily Caller's is). Besides a blog post at Roll Call, none are establishment press outlets.

Cross-posted at