Monday, December 06, 2004

Aide Takes Blame for Tax Return Provision

A mid-level House aide said yesterday that he was the one who, during last month's drafting of a huge spending bill, added a provision that could give staffers on the House and Senate appropriations committees broad access to Americans' tax returns.

Richard E. Efford, a 19-year veteran of the House Appropriations Committee, said he did not inform any elected official before inserting the provision and advised his immediate boss, Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.), only after it was too late to make changes. He said other House and Senate appropriations staffers in both parties were aware of the provision, however, and believed it gave them needed authority to enter facilities of the Internal Revenue Service (news - web sites) to inspect how taxpayer funds were being used.

"I would guess we all thought it was a housekeeping thing that would help our bosses but did not need to be elevated up to them," said Efford, who described himself as "dumbfounded" by the uproar.

So Istook finally got one of his staffers to fall on his sword on this one. And so a simple, easy to cover story is converted into a much bigger story about the deeply flawed way in which the Repugs are running Congress, which is of course going to get no coverage at all.


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