IRS apologizes for $4M conference

An Internal Revenue Service official whose division staged a lavish $4.1 million training conference and who starred as Mr. Spock in a "Star Trek" parody shown at the 2010 gathering conceded to Congress last week that taxpayer dollars were wasted in the episode.
AP Wire
Jun 10, 2013


"We're now in a very different environment" with new IRS spending curbs, Faris Fink, a top deputy in the agency's small business division at the time, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Fink, who now heads that 24,000-employee division, said he believes many of the expenditures "should have been more closely scrutinized or not incurred at all and were not the best use of taxpayer dollars."

The mea culpa was echoed by new acting IRS chief Danny Werfel as the embattled agency struggled to contain public and congressional ire over its targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and its spending of $49 million on 225 employee conferences over the past three years.

Werfel called the 2010 gathering in Anaheim, Calif., "an unfortunate vestige from a prior era" and said IRS spending on travel and training has fallen 80 percent since then.

"Our work in this area is one part of a much larger effort to chart a path forward in the IRS. This is obviously a very challenging time for the agency," Werfel said.

Werfel, who testified after Fink had left the committee room, became acting commissioner last month after President Barack Obama forced Steven Miller out of the job. Werfel appeared a day after putting two IRS officials on administrative leave for accepting free food at a party in a private suite at the Anaheim conference.

Behind the scenes, committee investigators have interviewed at least four IRS employees about the targeting of conservative groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections. The Associated Press viewed transcripts of interviews with two employees who work in the Cincinnati office where agents screened the applications.

The transcripts show that the employees believed that officials in Washington were directing their work. But they don't show any direct evidence that officials in Washington ordered the agents to target tea party groups, or why they may have done so.

Elizabeth Hofacre, an agent in the Cincinnati office, said she was in charge of processing applications from tea party groups, once they were selected by other agents, from April to October 2010, according to the transcript. She said an IRS lawyer in Washington, Carter Hull, micromanaged her work and ultimately delayed the processing of applications by tea party groups.

She said Hull's interest in the cases was highly unusual. "It was demeaning," she said. "One of the criteria is to work independently and do research and make decisions based on your experience and education, whereas on this case, I had no autonomy at all through the process."

Neither Hofacre nor Hull responded to requests for comment.

IRS regulations say tax-exempt social welfare organizations can engage in political activity, but not as their primary activity. It is up to the agency to make that determination.

Fink insisted that the IRS followed federal guidelines in planning the Anaheim gathering for 2,600 IRS workers. He said the conference was justified because at the time, around 30 percent of its managers were new and the agency was facing increased security threats.

Sitting at the same witness table was J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general whose scathing reports on the IRS' targeting of conservatives and conference spending have rocked the agency. George said he uncovered no criminal violations involving the conference.

Those comments didn't shield Fink from a three-hour tongue-lashing from the panel.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called the spending for the California conference "at best maliciously self-indulgent."

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., reprised a major GOP theme of the IRS controversy: that the agency will help implement a favorite Republican target, Obama's health care overhaul.

"It will soon have access to our health information," Gowdy said of the IRS. "Those are details that we don't share with people that we do trust, and we're going to be asked to share it with people who are so disconnected as to spend this amount of money."

Top panel Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland said he viewed the "Star Trek" video at 3 a.m. Thursday and said, "I tried to get to the redeeming value. Can't get there." Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., called the video "an insult to the memory of 'Star Trek.'"

Fink sat stoically as TV screens in the hearing room showed excerpts of that nearly six-minute video, in which he and other IRS employees wore "Star Trek" uniforms on a set resembling the bridge of the series' Starship Enterprise and Fink sported pointy ears and a black wig.

"It's embarrassing and I apologize," he told the lawmakers. He called the video "a well-intentioned way to use humor to open the conference."

George's report concluded that rather than saving money by negotiating lower room rates with the three Anaheim hotels, the IRS paid a standard government rate of $135 per room but accepted perks in return.

Asked why the IRS didn't negotiate for lower room rates, Fink said, "I was not aware we had the ability to do that."

The perks included some tickets to Los Angeles Angels baseball games and free upgrades for some executives to fancy suites that normally cost up to $3,500 per night and included wet bars and billiard tables. The report said 132 IRS employees got room upgrades.

The report found the IRS used two private event planners whose commissions were based on the hotel bills and therefore had no incentive to save money; spent $50,000 on the "Star Trek" video and another showing IRS employees line dancing; and paid $135,000 to 15 outside speakers.

It also spent $35,800 for IRS workers to make three planning trips to the conference site; paid $30,000 for 45 IRS workers in local offices to stay in hotels and collect per diem expenses from the government; and spent more than $64,000 for gifts including bags and journals with the conference logo.

The conference included two dozen workshops, including one led by IRS officials entitled, "Political Savvy: How Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot."

Fink left the hearing with companions and ignored reporters' questions as the group walked briskly away from the hearing room.




Wing - You don't get to accuse me of not being troubled with facts just because you don't like what I write.

Please - I want you to correct any falsehoods in my comments. Just stick to the facts, and not opinions, if you are able.

And another correction: I think you meant "fed", not "feed". A side effect from the thought of all that 'feeding' and burping of criminal "turds"?


....and you don't get to spin the facts just because you don't like me or anyone calling them out.

Your second point...are you fricken kidding me?

Thirdly fast finger typo fix complete.



Sorry Lan, two wrongs don't make a right.
And Barry O has dropped the ball a fair bit.
I'm not sure Romney or Old Man Cane (who I actually voted for) would have done much better, but they were not the one's running on the change platform, and from the looks of it Barry's not holding up a fair bit of his promises.

And to say Clinton or Bush were free of blame from 911 is silly.
There was evidence during both terms that something was going to happen, both chose not to act. Did it happen as a direct result of either men? No! But they did little to prevent it either.

As far as this IRS spending crap. Each executive involved should have been fired, and forced to repay the expense. If they are going to question my tax return and enforce penalties if I make a mistake, then they should expect the same.


You are right, What. Re: 9/11 - the fact remains, it happened on Bush's watch. Two wrongs don't make a right, but the fact remains, these NSA revelations have been happening for a long time, legally and illegally, with congressional and judicial approval. I don't like it, but let's get real. And the fact remains, the US has not had another major terrorist attack like 9/11 under Obama.

I think the IRS management, as punishment, should be required to wear their Star Trek costumes daily from this point on.


Pump the breaks on this one: "And the fact remains, the US has not had another major terrorist attack like 9/11 under Obama."

I did not like Bush. Not even a little. Voted for him first term, hated myself for it. But to say that the reason we have not had another 9/11 since Bush due to Obama is just dumb. The terrorist trained, planned & financed under Clinton. More time to discover and prevent was on Clinton then it was Bush. I liked Clinton way more than Bush and I believe they both hold a significant amount of blame for 911.

That being said, we've just recently had the attack in Boston, we lost people in an embassy, bad things are still happening. To say that Obama is the one preventing a massive attack like 911 is silly. The war on terror lead by both Bush and Obama has left the likelihood of another 911 little chance of success.

The large terror cells of the late 90’s and early 00’s are broken and scattered. Does this mean it will never happen again? No! But we’ve been reminded of how vulnerable we actually are, and though we have overreached on a number of areas in the past few years, we have made it more difficult for stuff like this to happen again. Would I again like to carry my pocket knife with me when I travel? Yes? But I’ll gladly give it up if it means that I’ll never have to witness another 911.


-I guess we'll have to agree to agree, What. I follow your line of thinking entirely. Of course, I'm not saying that we have not had another 9/11 just because Obama is president. My response has more to do with push-back against the propensity of many posters on this forum to blame Obama for every ill to befall this country, whether it happened under his watch or not, and to blame Obama for events that occur although caused by a previous administration.

History tells us there is a strong cause and effect that links events through administration to administration. It's simplistic (and lazy) to place all the blame or give all the credit to one president or another. The fact remains, and I repeat: The US has not had another major terrorist attack like 9/11 under Obama.


.....Nor did we from 9/12 until Odreamy took office.

We sure have had a lot of gnats biting at our heals since the campaigner in chief took office...oh wait we had work place violence and video inspired violence and, and, and.....


Please don't bring up gnats biting at heels (!) - literally too close to home. And when you say Odreamy, are you referring to the handsome fellow on Grey's Anatomy?


What, no retort to all the little terrorist hitting us. Let's see:

1. shooting attack by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad on a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas in May 2009 that killed a US soldier and injured another
2. The Fort Hood terrorist massacre shooting attack by Nidal Malik Hasan in Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009 that murdered 13 and injured scores of others,
3. The Christmas day terrorist attack on a US airliner bound for Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
4. Time Square bomber 2010, Faisal Shahzad
5. Benghazi Libya American compound attack Sept. 11th 2012, Still don't know who did that one, probably never will...what difference does it make (Shrillary)!
6. Boston Marathon bombers 2013, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

What attacks were successful after 9/11 and before the presidency of Barrack Hussein Obama?

It does not appear we are safer bowing to the world and trying to make nice with terrorism and world despots now does it! Ah, creeping normalcy, death by a thousand cuts! How many more will come with this weak leadership?


Ouch! With most people, that would leave a mark!


Like it matters! Dear Mr Franklin, to answer your question: no we can't keep it!


Slow the role Wingmaster, to say that the US is bowing and making nice with terrorism is a farce and hysterical. Let us count a number of facts about Obama and his use of force...

1. Tripled the number of troops in Afghanistan
2. War in Libya without congressional approval
3. Drones, Drones, Drones and more Drones
4. Deployed special forces in over 75 countries
5. Expanded our military presence to 7 new bases in Colombia plus a new one in Chile
6. Has dropped bombs in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq & Afghanistan

Oh, and he was in the chair when they got Osama, so to say he's timid is a bit of a stretch. He just does most of his killing behind closed doors. It's called having your cake and eating it to. Saying one thing while doing another. He talks the peace game while pointing a gun at your head.


Nice spin, but you are looking past my facts. He maybe doing as you state, but are we safer. Is what he is doing effective? We are getting hit slice at a time as we were before 9/11. We are again not effectively dealing with or addressing these events. We will most likely see another major attack, and when we do, all of these little slices will be in question. I pray I'm wrong here, but we have history repeating itself!


Obama "speaks softly but carries a big stick" (Teddy Roosevelt). The Repubs love to paint him as a weak, stumbling and "bowing" apologist, but who knew he was really a tough hawk on national and foreign US security. He has never governed in a true liberal sense in this sphere, and your list ( EDIT - by list, I mean Whats list, not Wings), while I haven't verified all of it, confirms my appreciation of Obama. He is proactive and vigilant with national security in a world that spins in ever more dangerous rotations, and requires a constant balancing act of assessment and reassessment. To think this is an easy chore is frighteningly deluded.

Obama has the ability to apply, realistically and pragmatically, nuance, content, and context to the nearly overwhelming complexity of the US connection to the rest of the world. Will there be snafus? - yes. Will he make mistakes? - yes. Might we have another 9/11? - it's possible. Is Obama's style better for the US than the Bush/Cheney/neocon enthusiastic embrace of ground war? - I say yes.


Well his "realistically and pragmatically, nuance, content, is getting Americans killed! Hello! Can we focus here please.
Funny how the "nearly overwhelming complexity of the US connection to the world" comment is ok to be used to give Owonderful a pass but GW was never presiding over a world like that during his time in office.

I think Odramas "big stick" is being stuck in our eyes while the truly bad guys are gaining momentum.
Say, how has the middle east been doing during BO's time in office? Might want to look that up why your googling away!


Wing - you know very well that I enjoy our sparring, but until you stop playing games with our president's name in your replies to me, I can not take you seriously. I respect your opinions even when I disagree with them, but my hope is that you can find a way of expressing those opinions with more respect for me by not goofing around with Obama's name when replying - it weakens your argument, which I don't think is your goal. I already know you don't like the guy, you don't have to be up in my grill about it.


I'm gonna have to side with Lan on this one Wing.

You don't have to like Obama, but you do need to respect the fact that he is your president. Respect the rank even if you do not respect the man.


I don't dislike the man but his politics disgust me. The arrogance of his style is disrespectful. I will try to tone it down but will not guarantee that as he does not play by the same rules. When he becomes President of all the people and shows the same respect and acts Presidential while addresssing our nations problems, I will reciprocate. He is a cut throat politician and I will respond in kind. Your right, the office should be respected
So are we safer with this President then our last?


Playing to my audience Lan. Respect is a two way street and politics are dirty. Constant Bush bashing occured through out his terms and even though I was not a huge fan of him I will not forget how much disrespect was thrown at him and Chenny.
Buck up Lan. I will take your request in consideration but will make no promises.
How's that fact checking going?


Lani, [s n a f u] is not a word. It’s an acronym and I am sure you know that. But maybe your follower's might be interested knowing what the individual letters mean. What is more interesting about the term is how, when it originated, and by whom. A very interesting story indeed.

Look it up, “Snafu the original story.”


I do know that, WalmartWolverine. I grew up with this term being used a lot, it having been picked up in the USAAC during WWII. Funny how the adults could use the term all the time, but us kids were not permitted to utter "heck". Interesting how the website is so pc with using "fouled" up.


Wing - I don't debate your list. These are the kinds of events (o jeez, better say terrorist attacks!) that the NSA and Co use to defend the need for the Patriot Act and all it's many spawns. My problem is that these and other "scandals" are used outside of their context to attack Obama, when I think they should be used to address the root problems and work toward reform that will improve the situation.

Everything's partisan politics, problems are not being solved, reforms are not being addressed. The problems didn't all magically start on January 20, 2009, but it sure is neat and tidy to say it did.


Can't help yourself can ya. You contradict yourself every time trying to throw things back to Boosh. You yammer on about 9/11 being his fault during his term and when the same is said of BO during his term and HIS scandals and problems you want to deflect. Has he done anything wrong so far in your eyes? Is he accountable for anything that's happened the last 5 years that have not been good for this country? Wow!

The problems, if we were to believe BO's campaign, were to go away on January 20 2009 remember! Transparent gubment, everything debated on CNN, repealing anything Boosh, taking 3am phone calls in crisis, reducing debt (credit card with China) blah, blah, blah. Well guess what, we are holding him to all that rhetoric and you want to run around spewing talking points, repeating lies and acting like the guy has a clue how to lead.

I will continue to hammer this guy and anyone who does not have the intellectual integrity to admit he is making mistakes, big ones that are costing lives, and lively hoods of Americans.

No one is going to be perfect but good lord, peel the scales off your eyes and look at what is going on here and around the world with weak leadership in our POTUS.


You all are being too harsh on poor Lanivan - she's still swooning over the finery of the Emperor - how the crease in his trousers is perfect, how svelte he looks in his golf shorts, how his basketball tee shirt fits, even how his Mom Jeans fit him to a T, compared to the dusty cowboy hat and boots of the hated Boosh.

Give her time to see what everyone else does (clothes added for family paper)


You are so right - Obama could fall in a mud puddle and come out with a new suit.

Actually, I thought Bush looked great on the USS Abraham Lincoln in that super cool flight suit - so handsome! Of course, 10 years later, with nearly 5,000 soldiers dead, 32,000 wounded warriors, a veteran suicide rate of 22 per day, an estimated total expense of $6 trillion, and no WMD, it took Obama to end the war. (facts added for family paper).

Never one to be too harsh, you can take your link and attach it eel-like to....


Touchy, touchy - is it because the truth about Obama is starting to sink in or because his hypocrisy is matched only by yours? You have the cojones to say " It's simplistic (and lazy) to place all the blame or give all the credit to one president or another." yet that is exactly your response to any factual and valid criticism of Obama - It was Bush's fault, or Bush was worse. I honestly can't think of any criticism of Obama with which you agreed, which is precisely why he can create a mud puddle, strip off his Mom Jeans, waddle nekkid in the muck, emerge, and all you see is a new suit and not the empty suit that he really is.

To be sure, I blame Obama personally when he lies to us, but more frequently because of the failed progressive policies he relentlessly pursues that often result in a loss of individual freedoms. But for you to mention veteran suicides is ridiculous, without apparently understanding (1)that the actual number of estimated suicides per day among veterans has remained relatively stable, ranging from 20 per day in 2000 to 18 per day in 2007 and 22 per day 2009 to the present; (2) that suicides are up in the entire population, particularly in those over 50 (same as the age of the veterans); (3) that the backlog of veterans’ disability claims has jumped by 179 percent during President Barack Obama’s first term in office, reaching 883,949 outstanding claims, according to Veterans Administration (VA) statistics and (4) that coincidentally, the economy has been the worst in many decades with these same people unable to find gainful employment.

If your hero ended the war (Iraq, Afghanistan, Terror?) why is he spying on every one of us to "protect" us from the terrorism he refuses to identify as such? Oh, but I forgot, it would be "simplistic (and lazy)to place all the blame on Bush. Mirror - Look.


And I can probably say with conviction that I will never agree with your criticism of Obama, because for as long as I've had the privilege of sparring with you in this forum, I have yet to find evidence that said criticism was fair or balanced. (I edited out valid and factual, as, although you accuse me of having "cojones", my intent is not to be as nasty). I find your statements, links, sources, and youtube videos to be remarkably and repetitously slanted against Obama without even the slightest breath of acknowledgement of anything approaching, say, neutrality. Let alone some semblance of respect for the office, even if you can't muster a particle of respect for the man.

Meanwhile, I have yet to experience what would surely be profound - you stating that there was wrongdoing in the Bush administration. Until that time comes (if that time ever comes), I have to say, without a shred of glee, and with disappointment that so polished a debater should choose such an argument consistently devoid of nuance, content, and context, that your arguments will not carry much weight with me.

Meanwhile, back to veteran suicides in a piece on the IRS: I should have said that in 2012, military suicides hit a record high of 349, the highest since 2001. And the number of veteran claims jumped from 888,000 in 2008 to 1.4 million in 2011. My point is that this is all collateral damage from war. The absolutely sinful posing of Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a flight suit declaring Mission Accomplished, when the country was posed for near financial and economic collapse, can not be blamed on Obama. Obama has had to bring this country out of a desperate, nearly unprecedented situation (one that you have never acknowledged in this forum), and deal imperfectly with an obstructionist Republican congress whose sole stated goal, despite the imperative need for an engaged congress committed to strengthening the US, is to make him a one-term president. That was a screaming failure, so let's waste time, money, and energy investigating "scandals", rather than buckle down and start addressing the tough issues. I repeat: It is simplistic and lazy (and unconscionable) to place blame for all society's ills on Obama. But I recognize that the "scandals" will keep coming, and coming, as this is all they have at this point.

I do agree with you that it's shameful that veterans can't find jobs, which is why it's a travesty that the GOP blocked Obama's Veteran's Job bill. And why I appreciate Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden's proactive efforts in encouraging private industry hiring.

As for your spying comment - better be careful! You're outside of the party line parameters, as the GOP was the strongest proponent of all the spy legislation for decades now, and has consistently given it a big thumbs up every time that legislation comes up for renewal. Oh, and Boehner and McConnell are really mad at Edward Snowden, calling him a traitor and demanding his head on a platter. Interesting how the GOP has a laissez faire attitude when it comes to spying, but is beyond indignation over a terrorist attack on a CIA operation in a Benghazi outpost.

Looking in the mirror requires energy, the ability to self-reflect, and critical thinking skills. I try to stay true to something I was taught a long time ago - don't ask someone to do something you yourself are unwilling to do.


Lanny, you are, if anything, entertaining. In these comments we see you spinning at such a dizzying warp speed that you have confused yourself. The Trib article was on one of the many scandals currently impacting the administration of he whose middle name cannot be uttered, and whose name cannot be satirized, (even if we have no evidence of what his birth name truly is).

The first comment out of the box is Lanny, making fun of the Republican chairman trying to unravel who at IRS was directing the discrimination, since the principle witness took the 5th. Boater makes a perfectly valid comment about how this kind of lawlessness must stop, and Lanny's retort is: wait for it, a littany of complaints about Bush! How Bush is responsible for current IRS lawlessness exists only in the fertile mind of Lanny.

Boater then responds in kind, pointing out the Clinton terror foibles, which leads Lanny to genuflecting at the altar of Obama. I enter the fray with a reference to Wing's Emperor having no clothes, with a humorous look at real pictures of Obama. Lanny responds, predictably, with more beating up of Bush, with a reference to vet suicides, once again relevant only in the fertile mind of Lanny. And the Piece de Resistance:

Lanny starts a paragraph with "Meanwhile, back to veteran suicides in a piece on the IRS" as though the concept that suicides could be involved in a discussion of the IRS is incomprehensible, even though Lanny herself introduced it!

No more time for this Lanny. Your constantly attempting to deflect valid questions about Obama, his policies, and his lies with attacks on Bush simply proves you are unserious, and have no answers to the questions. When you actually have some, get back to me.


Lame, but not entirely unexpected. Your charges of my genuflection are meant to drown out my charges of your deflection. I don't buy into your argument, so you attempt to discredit me by making me out to be flip and disingenuous. Your recitation of comments shows me loud and clear you have no interest in linking events if they don't conform to your preconceived notions.

I'm happy to answer any valid questions you ask. The problem, which keeps coming up, is that you don't like my answers. In VladWorld, Obama, right out the gate, is a "serial liar" whose every "progressive" policy, word, and deed is suspect, made in a vacuum, with no relationship to words, deeds, and actions of those who came before him, or any other external conditions. You either play this game to set me up, or you really believe it. I really don't care to contemplate either scenario.

If you can't ask valid questions that demonstrate some modicum of deviation from your usual set-in-stone preconceived convictions with the expectation of total submission on my part, don't ask me for answers.

Hope you aren't too dizzy!


I see you don't dispute what I said, but apart from that, to prove I'm not dizzied by your Statue of Liberty plays, answer this short list of the latest lies of Obama:

“The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed.”

“Mitt Romney raised nursing home fees eight times.”

“Mitt Romney called the Arizona law a model for the nation.”

“Planned Parenthood provides mammograms”
Spero News

“We got back every dime we used to rescue the financial system”

Benghazi violence was caused by an internet video & demonstrations
State Department

“Mitt Romney Plans to fire Big Bird”

“Under Gov. Romney’s definition … Donald Trump is a small business.”

Because of Obamacare, “over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up — it’s true — but they’ve gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years.”

“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration”

Romney and Ryan will gut pell grants for low-income college students.

My budget will cut the deficit by $4 Trillion over 10 years.

“I am told that Governor Romney’s new running mate, Paul Ryan, might be around Iowa the next few days,” he said while in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “He is one of the leaders of Congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities.”
House passed bill on August 2, 2012 (Paul Ryan voted yes)

The American automobile industry has come roaring back…So now I want to say what we did with the auto industry, we can do it in manufacturing across America. Let’s make sure advanced, high-tech manufacturing jobs take root here, not in China. And that means supporting investment here. Governor Romney … invested in companies that were called ‘pioneers’ of outsourcing. I don’t want to outsource. I want to insource.
Forbes- Outsourcer-In-Chief: Obama Of General Motors

That's 14 lies from his 4th year in office; to help you identify the problems, the source of the identification of the lie is provided.

I leave you to explain this wonderful pronunciation from your hero:
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America 's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America 's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." ~ Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006

If you don't respond, we can take it as an admission that each of the statements was a lie. Cheers!



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