IRS official in ‘Star Trek’ spoof apologizes for lavish conference

A woman walks out of the Internal Revenue Service building in New York in this May 13, 2013 photo. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
The Internal Revenue Service is under fire for the expense of its training videos. Credit: Reuters

A top official at the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday acknowledged that it was “embarrassing” how much the tax agency spent on training videos, including a “Star Trek” spoof, and other lavish expenses during a 2010 conference in California.

Faris Fink, commissioner of the agency’s small business and self-employed division, told lawmakers the videos, which cost more than $50,000 to produce, were well-intentioned but in hindsight inappropriate.

“It’s embarrassing. I apologize,” said Fink, who played the character Spock in the “Star Trek” parody that included a tax-themed skit. “I regret the fact that they were made.”

The IRS, already under a cloud of scandal related to the targeting of conservative groups, this week faced fresh criticism over a Treasury watchdog report on wasteful spending.

The report released Tuesday found that the IRS used money originally intended for hiring enforcement employees to partially fund a $4.1 million conference in Anaheim, Calif., that included luxury hotel rooms and a speaker paid $17,000 to talk about leadership through painting.

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee holding the hearing on Thursday, accused the IRS of grossly mismanaging taxpayer money with conference spending that was “at best maliciously self-indulgent.”

Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, said he was up at 3 a.m. watching the “Star Trek” video trying to find a way the cost could be justified.

“I swear I do not see the redeeming value,” Cummings said.

The tax agency has been under fire since early May, when IRS official Lois Lerner publicly acknowledged that IRS workers had inappropriately targeted Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status for intense scrutiny, and apologized for the behavior.

Multiple congressional committees and the Justice Department have since opened probes into the matter, but it is still unclear exactly who initiated the targeting and what the motivation was behind it.

Republicans have accused the IRS of following direction from Washington, but current and former top IRS officials have denied that there was any political motivation.

Instead, they say the Cincinnati office made a poor choice in using criteria such as “Tea Party” and “patriots” to sift through a flood of applications for tax-exempt status.

President Barack Obama denied knowing about the targeting before Lerner’s apology on May 10 and has since fired Steven Miller, who was the acting head of the IRS. Lerner has been put on administrative leave.

On Wednesday, two IRS staffers were suspended because of the conference spending scandal.

Congressional staff members briefed on the matter said two employees — including one working on Obama’s healthcare initiative — were disciplined for improperly accepting gifts at the Anaheim conference.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sister of accused Boston Marathon bombers arrested for…

The sister of the accused Boston Marathon bombers was arrested in New York City for threatening a woman over the phone, saying she could "put a bomb on you," police…

Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Labor Day in NYC: Make the last weekend…

Soon, it’ll be time for wool accessories and knee-high boots. Even the Pumpkin Spice Latte has already arrived — but we still have one last…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…