After claiming that the targeting of conservative groups came about because they lacked sufficient resources, the IRS is planning to dole out $70 million in employee bonuses, according to Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee.
“The IRS always claims to be short on resources,” Grassley said. “But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses. And it appears to be making an extra effort to give the bonuses despite opportunities to renegotiate with the union and federal instruction to cease discretionary bonuses during sequestration.”
If the agency goes through with the bonuses, it could be in violation of an Obama-administration directive ordering federal agencies to cancel discretionary bonuses because of the sequestration spending cuts. That directive was authored by Danny Werfel, a former White House budget official who, coincidentally, was recently appointed acting director of the IRS.
From the Associated Press:
The IRS said it is negotiating with the union over the matter but did not dispute Grassley’s claim that the bonuses are imminent.
Office of Management and Budget “guidance directs that agencies should not pay discretionary monetary awards at this time, unless legally required,” IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said in a statement. “IRS is under a legal obligation to comply with its collective bargaining agreement, which specifies the terms by which awards are paid to bargaining-unit employees.”
Eldridge, however, would not say whether the IRS believes it is contractually obligated to pay the bonuses.
The union involved in the negotiations is the National Treasury Employees Union, a deeply partisan organization I’ve written about previously:
[T]he National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) … represents 150,000 federal employees across 31 agencies, including the IRS. The union endorsed Obama in both of his presidential runs and operates a political-action committee (PAC) that has donated $1.63 million to federal candidates and committees since 2008, more than 96 percent of it to help elect Democrats. During that period, IRS employees have contributed more than $67,000 to the PAC.
This past cycle, the union spent heavily on competitive House and Senate races. (In light of the recent scandal, the National Republican Campaign Committee is calling on Democrats to return NTEU contributions.) The union’s members participated in other ways as well, by “educating and organizing various types of activities around the country including candidate nights and volunteering for campaigns.”
Colleen Kelley, the union’s president since 1999, worked as a revenue agent for the IRS for 14 years, and her political leanings are clear. She has given nearly $5,000 to the NTEU PAC since 2007, and she donated $500 to John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004. If her public statements are any indication, Kelley thinks none too highly of the Republican party, especially its more conservative elements such as the Tea Party.
The IRS has awarded more than $92 million in employee bonuses since 2009, according to the Washington Examiner.