The IRS has a new boss. And his first visit was to
Cincinnati, where a group of workers has been under a cloud of suspicion for
much of the past year. His message to them was simple.
"They haven't been forgotten, they haven't been abandoned,
that we're all in this together and we're going to solve these problems and
move forward," said John Koskinen, the new IRS commissioner.
He took office just days before Christmas.
After learning Koskinen was headed to town, FOX19 spent a
great deal of time over the past 24 hours trying to convince his aides that he
should do an interview with us. We learned this morning that he'd give us a few
minutes between meetings in the lobby of the federal building downtown.
We asked if he's seen evidence that laws were broken or why
IRS workers targeted Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status. Koskinen
didn't defend the workers' actions but said he doubts they did anything
"We'll see what the facts are and respond according to the
facts," he said. "What I really know is what's in the press, as anybody else.
I've seen nobody indicating that there are criminal violations."
That comment doesn't sit well with a prominent Tea Party
leader in Ohio, who believes someone at the IRS clearly violated the law.
"They were targeting citizens," said Portage County Tea
Party leader Tom Zawistowski. "They were exchanging information between
agencies, which is clearly illegal. The IRS was sending information to the
Federal Election Commission."
For the new IRS commissioner, there's another political hot
potato at-hand --- trying to increase his agency's budget, which is down a
billion dollars from three years ago.
Koskinen argues those budget cuts have led to a breakdown in
"Last year, 40 percent of the people who called the IRS did
not get through," he said. "That's unacceptable. It's intolerable. We shouldn't
treat taxpayers that way."
It's a problem he acknowledges isn't likely to get better
this year, with tax season on the horizon and some members of Congress who
believe the agency needs to be punished, not get more funding.