Issa's Pet Issue Brings Down an IRS Obamacare Administrator

Philip Bump
Issa's Pet Issue Brings Down an IRS Obamacare Administrator

Darrell Issa, please come collect your scalp. It's a valuable one: The guy the IRS put in charge of implementing Obamacare has been placed on leave for taking improper gifts.

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The Hill reports:

[T]he staffers – named by one source as Fred Schindler and Donald Koda, who both work on implementation of the Affordable Care Act – received over $1,100 in free food and other gifts at a 2010 California conference that was the centerpiece of a recent Treasury audit, according to information given to congressional investigators.

BuzzFeed's John Stanton indicates that the conference at issue isn't clear:

One congressional source said it also appears the free meals and gifts were accepted at the same 2010 conference during which participants filmed a Star Trek spoof video.

That conference was the subject of an exhaustive audit by the inspector general, which found that it cost $4.1 million. If it wasn't that conference at which Schindler took the improper gifts, it could have been any of the 151 other conferences the agency held that year. In total, the inspector general found that the IRS spent $37.5 million on conferences in 2010.

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Rep. Darrell Issa of California has been leading the push to investigate IRS spending, predicated on the IG's report. Tomorrow, the House Oversight committee (which he chairs) will hold a hearing on it and the IRS' "spending culture." Before this revelation, it seemed likely that the hearing would be treading well-worn ground. In the autumn of 2011, President Obama signed an executive order curtailing the sort of spending demonstrated at the IRS conference. Now, there's something to talk about, albeit a bit off-topic.

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But that's not the only reason Issa has to celebrate. Since the IRS first admitted to improperly flagging conservative organizations for additional scrutiny, Republicans have been scrambling to use the IRS' problems to bash Obamacare. Following the Supreme Court's determination that the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare in the common parlance — must be administered through Congress' taxing authority, the IRS was given responsibility for administering 47 different provisions of the complex law. In order to do so, the agency appointed a Director of Implementation Oversight for the ACA office. That person was Schindler.

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Schindler and Koda weren't the first administrators to be put on leave. Lois Lerner, who ran the office of tax-exempt organizations at the heart of the Tea Party scandal, was placed on leave at the end of last month. As with Lerner, Schindler's leave will be paid, by IRS policy.

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How the IRS determined Schindler's improper behavior isn't clear. If it stemmed directly from the IG's report, Schindler isn't mentioned, nor are any gifts. Hotels did offer the IRS perks during the aforementioned conference, but the inspector general determined that those were appropriate. It's not clear, then, that Issa deserves much credit for Schindler's ouster, but that hasn't served as much deterrent from his doing so in the past.

A request for response from Rep. Issa was not returned, perhaps because his office was occupied with popping champagne corks.

Photo: Rep. Issa shows someone else (Rep. John Lewis) the way out. (AP)