With the exception of the Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is probably the most unpopular federal agency in government. That is understandable because they have taken money from people and have significant power to financially destroy a person or organization. And, because it is a very unpopular agency, it is critical for the functioning of our government that the perception of the agency be one that it is not subject to political pressure and treats all Americans equally in its application of tax law.
While Americans dislike the agency and are apprehensive about how so much power and authority in one agency can be exercised, the agency has generally been well-respected as doing a good job and not showing political favoritism toward any political party or faction. In fact, way back in 2010, one article noted that “The much derided and protested Internal Revenue Service is one of the only federal agencies that has actually grown more popular in the last decade.” And, in a very recent article, the Wall Street Journal noted that “Four decades ago, during a Republican administration that was brought down by corruption, the IRS turned out to be a bulwark of government integrity.”
But that reputation of integrity can be destroyed quickly with publicity that throws the agency’s reputation into doubt. Two new polls indicate that the agency’s integrity is now in question. In the most recent poll, 71% of those surveyed think that the Internal Revenue Service purposely destroyed email about its investigations of Tea Party and other conservative groups to hide criminal behavior by the agency. In addition, two-out-of-three voters think that IRS employees involved in these investigations should be jailed or fired, and most suspect the agency of targeting other political opponents of the Obama administration.
In another poll published on June 24th, the results were similar. In that poll, 76% of voters have concluded that the emails missing from the account of Lois Lerner, the former IRS official often portrayed as being at the center of scandal over targeting of conservative groups, were deliberately destroyed. That cynicism about the IRS actions is shared across party lines with 90 percent of Republicans concluding the emails were intentionally destroyed. 74 percent of independents and 63 percent of Democrats also think the email was purposely destroyed.
What is your opinion? Were email messages purposely destroyed?
Results from FedSmith.com user survey
In your opinion, did the IRS purposely destroy email regarding the targeting of conservative groups?
- Yes: 78.86%
- No: 21.14%