For the second time in as many months, a senior IRS manager on Wednesday invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, fueling perceptions of an agency in crisis.
Greg Roseman, a Deputy IRS Director, spearheaded the awarding of the IRS's largest contract in history to a company owned by a close friend of his, an action that is prohibited under government contracting regulations.
The company is Strong Castle, Inc., owned by Braulio Castillo. Castillo won several contracts totaling almost $500 million for IRS IT services in part on the basis of his friendship with Roseman and by qualifying for two minority programs that allow disadvantaged applicants a better chance of winning lucrative government contracts.
Castillo qualified for one minority set-aside program by setting up his business in a disadvantaged area of northeast Washington D.C. The Small Business Administration program requires applicants to hire from within the economically disadvantaged community, but a House Oversight Committee report found that Castillo manipulated that requirement by hiring students from Catholic University. The school’s campus lies within the designated boundary, but its students are, on balance, far from disadvantaged.
He won entrance into another minority set-aside program run by the Veterans Administration that gives disabled vets certain advantages in federal contracting. His disability? An ankle twisted during football at the US Military Academy Prep School 27 years ago.
That prompted a sarcastic reaction at Wednesday’s House Oversight Committee hearing from a double amputee, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war vet. "I'm so glad that you would be willing to play football in prep school again to protect this great country. Shame on you, Mr. Castillo, shame on you," she said.
As evidence of their close friendship, the committee published text messages between Roseman and Castillo. The two men apparently found kinship in using homophobic slurs. One exchange reads, "Paging Dr. Faggot." The response reads, "Queerbait. How come u haven't called back? Ain't got all day. Lol."
Roseman is still employed by the IRS. That fact prompted a testy exchange between Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Beth Tucker, the IRS's Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support.
"Can you issue a statement by five o'clock today as to how someone who used this language in their official capacity as a government employee is still employed and drawing a paycheck?" Gowdy asked. "We are having discussions with our general counsel," Tucker responded.
On Friday, there will be more IRS focus on the Hill. The committee will vote whether it believes Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when she invoked that right, then abruptly proclaimed her innocence. It was a maneuver that some on the panel say amounted to waiving the right.