By Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid
April 2, 2001

      As tax deadline day approaches, it should be of interest to taxpayers that the IRS itself has been caught violating the law. It’s actually an old story. The IRS not only violated the law and got away with it, but the whistleblower inside the agency that disclosed this wrongdoing was forced out of the job. The whistleblower, Shelley Davis, was one of the speakers at the recent conference of whistleblowers co-sponsored by Accuracy in Media.

      Davis, who discovered that the IRS was destroying historical records in violation of the law, is the author of Unbridled Power: Inside the Secret Culture of the IRS. Although she suffered as a result of her whilstleblowing, she said she would do it again. She lost a career making $69,000 a year as the IRS historian, a retirement package, and didn’t get a settlement from the agency when she left. More importantly, she said, “I lost my faith in my government, and I lost my faith in my fellow citizens to do the right thing.”

      Davis was the first and last IRS historian. She had ten years of experience as a historian for the Defense Department when she went to the IRS. She understood what federal agencies were supposed to do, in terms of maintaining historical records. After she got to the IRS, she went to the National Archives looking for agency records. An employee took her up to a room where Davis was shown a few shelves with a few boxes. This was the tip-off that the IRS is more secretive than even the CIA, FBI or National Security Agency. For over 100 years, Davis said, the IRS has been destroying its historical records, making it difficult for the public or the press to discover agency wrong-doing.

      Davis, who worked for the IRS for a total of seven and one-half years, tried to fix this problem. She didn’t and she couldn’t. Some co-workers supported her privately but not publicly. They told her to continue with her battle to make the IRS open and accountable. But Davis found herself under investigation by the IRS itself. Her story was covered by the Wall Street Journal but in general the press ignored her. She said the New York Times in particular ignored her because her story was broken by the Journal, a competitor.

      Davis was also disappointed by Congress. She said her story was one factor in the congressional hearings into IRS operations several years ago. But those were “a lot of bombast” and they died away rather quickly. At one point, before the hearings, Davis said she was the “darling” of Congress. But after the hearings, she couldn’t get her telephone calls returned.

      In writing her book, Davis said she discovered the case of another IRS whistleblower, who spent 12 years and $20,000 of his own money, his life savings, trying to get justice but lost his case. Contrasting her case with that of the gunman who recently opened fire on the White House because of a dispute with the IRS, Davis said she had managed to keep her mental health and positive outlook on life throughout the ordeal. “I always knew I was doing the right thing,” she said.

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