At a time when the Internal Revenue Service is under fire for targeting Tea Party and conservative groups and its lavish spending at conferences, the embattled agency will soon dole out $70 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses to union employees:
The Internal Revenue Service is about to pay $70 million in employee bonuses despite an Obama administration directive to cancel discretionary bonuses because of automatic spending cuts enacted this year, according to a GOP senator.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says his office has learned that the IRS is executing an agreement with the employees’ union on Wednesday to pay the bonuses. Grassley says the bonuses should be canceled under an April directive from the White House budget office.
“The IRS always claims to be short on resources,” Grassley said. “But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses. And it appears to be making an extra effort to give the bonuses despite opportunities to renegotiate with the union and federal instruction to cease discretionary bonuses during sequestration.”
The IRS said it is negotiating with the union over the matter but did not dispute Grassley’s claim that the bonuses are imminent.
The generous bonuses that the IRS gives to its employees were noticed by commentators after the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups became public knowledge. For example, Lois Lerner, the agency official who invoked the Fifth Amendment during a congressional hearing last month, reportedly received over $42,000 in bonuses between 2009 and 2011.
News of the IRS bonuses has been met with adminition from many conservatives. FreedomWorks, an organization that works closely with the grassroots, is among the groups bewildered by the move.
“So the federal government can’t afford White House tours,” noted FreedomWorks’ Communication Director Jackie Bodnar, “but the IRS can reward it’s employees for years of waste, fraud and abuse throughout the agency?” I wish the IRS took their legal obligation to treat every American equally under the law as seriously as they do their collective bargaining agreements.”
The revelation is also troublesome due to the frequent attention the White House has given the sequester in recent months.
The Obama Administration has played political games with the sequester, which merely cuts the rate of spending increases over the next 10 years, by shutting down White House tours and briefly furloughing air-traffic controllers. These moves were part of an effort to make Americans see the effect of the spending cuts in hopes that they could gain a political advantage over Congress.
The public perception of this could be that the IRS is getting a pat on the back at time when they’ve clearly betrayed the Americans trust and become the latest symbol of government waste. That’s not a message that Washington should be sending to the country.