Denying your federal DNA

When you work for the federal government — no matter how humble your job — it pays to have a sense of humor.

Also, thick skin.

And, when all else fails, a good disguise.

As a lifelong reporter, I have, when the media is under fire, passed as a dentist, undertaker and travel agent to escape detection.


Having another cover, or defenses, is especially true right now. Today. Feds, from cabinet heads to rank-and-file employees, spend a lot of time on TV these days, either as subjects of investigative stories, or even worse, testifying (in some cases again, and again) before a congressional committee. Or two. Or three.

Congress has more money than most of us, and subpoena powers. So getting on the wrong side of a politican or political movement can force you to go broke lawyering up. This is not a present tense partisan dig. Both political parties, when they control the House, Senate or White House, go into the get-political, get-even mode, whenever they have a chance. Often the people they target don’t have a chance. Even if they are not guilty of anything but being in the wrong place, wrong job at the right time.

Federal agencies and federal workers (like the rest of us) do stupid, sometimes illegal, things. Sometimes by accident, sometimes by design. But it is tough working for Uncle Sam, especially if you are just doing your job, when politicians — again both Republicans and Democrats — decide to make points with your career.

GSA, Homeland Security, the Secret Service, and lots of other federal agencies have been in and out of the hotseat for the past couple of years. Sometimes for good reason. Sometimes not. But people get burned whether guilty or innocent.

The IRS saga: Did some officials knowingly target conservative Tea Party groups? —keeps on. I don’t have a clue who the bad guys (and gals) are. But there are some people closer to it than others. As in rank-and-file IRS workers who have spent a lifetime working for a very necessary, but very unpopular, federal operation.

So what are some IRS types saying about congressional investigations into IRS’s tax-exempt program, which like all other tax laws, was established by Congress. Here are a couple of insider takes…

“In response to your column today, this is what really happened at the IRS with the Exempt Organizations Division.”

…No, I don’t have any “inside information”, but knowing the IRS, this seems very clear to me.

With the Citizens United decision, there were a lot of inherently political organizations that sought the ability of contributors to remain anonymous that IRC 501(c)(4), Advocacy Organizations, offered. There were some of these organizations on the left, but there is no question the right did a better job of organizing these entities, and yes, this includes any organization with “Tea Party” in its name. Had the IRS simply allowed these organizations to operate as 501(c)(4)s, everyone would have been happy, other than the watchdogs on the left.

Or, had the IRS simply said, “no, you’re inherently political organizations, and therefore, you’re not going to be allowed to operate as IRC 501(c)(4)s”, then it would have gone to court, possibly to the Supreme Court. In any case, a final ruling would have been handed down one way or the other, and that would have been the end of it. However, the IRS was afraid of the political ramifications of making a decision. So, what did they do? The just let the cases stack up without making any decision, hoping to come up with an answer later that would make everybody happy.

The “scandal” was simply the refusal to make a decision out of fear. Ironically, the consequences of not making any decision were greater than the consequences of making a decision either way. However, the fallout was postponed to a later date.”

Here’s an IRS lifer:

Mike, this has been a real pain in the butt… to us IRS front line employees. Looking at the big picture, who did this really affect? This is purely a political power play with the big payoff coming in November. Not one day goes by someone is grouping me with the fools involved with this so-called scandal. If it were my policy, we shouldn’t have any tax except organizations especially in this budget deficits era. I look at this as using my tax dollars as campaign donations just, ridiculous. Oh by the way, has a budget passed this year.? This is my last full work day before I retire. I bet if nothing comes from this that the Democrats and Republicans play budget chicken with feds being the pawns in this. I’m making bets there is another shut down on October 1 and to whose fault the shutdown will be blamed on, the other will be beating that to death come November. Think I’m leaving at the right time!”

There are other trades, crafts and professions where it sometimes pays to sail under the radar. Especially when meeting people for first time. Members of the media, lawyers and contractors know first-hand the value of mumbling, then flight, when people ask what they do for a living? Especially if it is at an event where alcohol is being served.


Researchers in the U.S. claim people with wide faces are more likely to get a bonus compared with their thin-faced rivals. Fuller faced workers earn £1,300 (about $1,700) more than those with narrow faces when asking for a bonus, the study found. However, researchers said this comes with a compromise. Wide faced people fared less well when it came to business negotiations.

(Source: Daily Mail UK)


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