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
Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Local

African couple claiming misidentification in robbery case to…

At a bail hearing today for Vickson and Lorfu Korlewala, charged in the robbery of an 80-year-old woman, bail was reduced from $1 million total to $500,000.

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

Music

Both feet on the ground with Aimee Mann…

What began with a cool double-bill of Ted Leo opening for Aimee Mann morphed into a full-fledged collaborative project that they're calling The Both. “There…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.