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A Defensive Response
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Ring, ring.
“Hello, this is Tom.”
“Hello, Tom, this is the federal government. We are going to audit your taxes and want to see all of your records for 2011.”
“Sorry, federal government, but my computer crashed in 2011. All of my emails, electronic receipts and financial records were lost.”
“We’re not buying that, Tom. Anybody with half a brain would back up his data to a backup drive. And many people pay a measly 60 bucks a year to a service that automatically backs the data up online. Surely, your 2011 data still exist.”
“Nope, sorry, no backups were ever done. When my computer crashed I lost all the data I created from 2009 to 2011.”
“Then give us the crashed hard drive, Tom. We have experts here who know how to retrieve data from crashed drives.”
“I’d love to help you, but it is my policy to recycle crashed hard drives.”
“Well, what about emails you sent to your accountant, Tom? They surely exist. Email exists not just on hard drives but on the networks of the email providers.”
“Nope, sorry, the emails are gone forever, too. My accountant’s computer also crashed. And the email provider we were using went out of business.”
“That sounds awfully fishy to us, Tom.”
“Why should it? It is the very same defense the IRS is using. The IRS says it is unable to retrieve specific information and emails from specific IRS employees who are accused of using the IRS to target conservative groups.”
“What are you talking about, Tom?”
“According to Politico, the IRS told congressional investigators ‘that the emails of (Lois) Lerner, the former head of the tax exempt division that was found to have singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny, were lost from 2009 to 2011 in a computer hard drive crash in early summer 2011.’”
“So what of it, Tom? Computer crashes happen all the time.”
“Politico says ‘the time frame is significant because the tea party targeting began in the spring of 2010, and Republicans think if there was a smoking gun connecting the Obama administration to the IRS treatment of conservative groups, it could be found during that period.’” “Come now, Tom. Government agencies follow specific processes for disposing of broken hard drives. Bad drives are sent to companies that recycle them. There is absolutely no evidence that operatives in the White House had anything to do with the targeting of conservative groups.”
“This is a matter of grave importance, I hope you agree. Using the IRS to attack or persecute political opponents is what every single American fears. And many Americans think that our government is not coming clean on the entire tea party matter.”
“That may be what you think, Tom, but we think that many Americans are more concerned with Kim Kardashian’s new baby than they are about confusing government scandals.”
“Look, it is hard to believe that the email records of six people involved in this scandal are somehow lost forever due to a series of convenient hard-drive crashes. It’s awfully coincidental, don’t you think?”
“You sound paranoid, Tom. You must be one of those conservative kooks. Besides, none of the IRS scandal with conservative groups has anything to do with you.”
“Sure it does. For starters, it speaks to the integrity of our government. Has our government gotten so big and messy that citizens now have to live in fear of it? Besides, if government officials can defend themselves by stonewalling on information and records, then why can’t an average American do likewise?”
“Nice try, Tom! Why don’t you go ahead and attempt the same defense during an IRS audit and see what happens to you!”
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at