The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is currently claiming that seven different IRS officials experienced computer crashes that erased their emails and made it impossible for the IRS to cooperate with congressional investigations into the IRS targeting matter.
The wave of computer crashes apparently struck both Washington, D.C. — where Lois Lerner oversaw the agency’s Exempt Organizations division — and also Cincinnati, Ohio — where agents processed tax-exempt applications.
The Federal Records Act requires IRS employees to save all of their emails pertaining to agency business and to also print those emails out in case they have a computer crash.
IRS commissioner John Koskinen claimed in testimony in March that the IRS employees’ emails were saved on servers, but then testified this month that he doesn’t know of any “magical way” to get the missing emails back.
The IRS canceled its six-year business relationship with the email-archiving firm Sonasoft in September 2011, weeks after Lerner’s computer crash, and also prematurely retired data storage devices at its IT offices in Maryland.
Here are the seven IRS employees who could use a tutorial on hard drive-fixing:
Lois Lerner: Lerner was the Washington-based head of the IRS Exempt Organizations division until her recent resignation. Lerner originally apologized in May 2013 for targeting conservative groups, but later attested to her innocence and repeatedly pleaded the Fifth at House Oversight hearings. The House of Representatives voted in May to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress. New IRS commissioner John Koskinen testified that nobody at the IRS tried to extract any emails from a six-month backup disk after Lerner’s computer hard drive allegedly crashed in June 2011. Lerner’s hard drive was “recycled.” Lerner and her attorney husband Michael Miles live on a $2.4 million property in Bethesda, Maryland.
Nikole Flax, former chief of staff to IRS commissioner Steven Miller: Flax was a busy bureaucrat during her tenure at the IRS, where she worked for Lerner in the exempt organizations division among other roles. Flax made 31 visits to the White House between July 12, 2010 and May 8, 2013, according to White House visitor logs. Flax’s visits started in the early days of the IRS targeting program and ended just two days before the IRS scandal broke on May 10, 2013. Flax met twice in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with Jeanne Lambrew, a top adviser to President Obama who exchanged confidential information on conservative groups with Lerner.
Flax previously worked at the Joint Committee on Taxation as a legislative counsel, but left about six years ago, sources told TheDC. Flax attended Louisiana State University. She is married to Ryan H. Flax, a litigation consultant at the Washington firm A2L Consulting and a former intellectual property lawyer at the major D.C. law firm Dickstein Shapiro. The couple live in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Reached by phone, Ryan Flax declined to comment for this report, telling TheDC that he is “not really a part of this [controversy].”
Michelle Eldridge, IRS national media relations chief: This 23-year IRS veteran was tasked with defending the IRS when it came under scrutiny in 2012 for whistleblower reprisal from its inspector general and from Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who Lerner tried to target, and when it was revealed in 2013 that the agency leaked confidential information on conservative groups to the liberal nonprofit ProPublica. Eldridge visited the White House on March 22, 2010, to meet with Vice President Joe Biden’s scheduling director Alex Hornbrook.
“Eldridge leads the IRS’ national media relations office to provide public information on key announcements and tax law changes, including new health care tax law implications and recovery act provisions,” according to a speaker bio. “As chief, national media relations, she manages the day-to-day issuance of news releases and guidance drops, handles national media inquiries, and implements communication and media strategies for key IRS initiatives, such as offshore tax compliance and the Return Preparer Initiative.”
Kimberly Kitchens, agent: Kitchens, who donated to President Obama’s 2012 campaign, worked in the IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements office in Cincinnati in 2012, according to IRS documents. The IRS’ plague of computer crashes, therefore, was not merely confined to Washington, D.C., but also ensnared the Cincinnati office that Lerner oversaw and initially tried to blame the entire scandal on.
Nancy Heagney, agent: Another Cincinnati-based Exempt Organizations official that worked under Lerner.
Julie Chen, agent: Chen is another Exempt Organizations official, according to IRS documents.
Tyler Chumny, supervisory agent: After some confusion as to the identity of Tyler Chumney, a source informed us that he served as a Cincinnati-based contact person on at least one tax-exempt decision letter signed by Lerner.