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Another Tough Hearing for the IRS

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Faris Fink has become the latest poster boy for what critics say is wrong with the Internal Revenue Service.

Already reeling from reports that the agency targeted conservative groups seeking tax exempt status, the IRS is also dealing with an audit by J. Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general, who told the House Oversight and Committee Thursday that $49 million was spent on 225 conferences from 2010 to 2012.

Committee chairman Darrell Issa said at the hearing, "Today more than any other hearing, we revisit the kind of waste and the kind of failure to secure taxpayers hard-earned money that I can remember in history."

Fink, the commissioner of the IRS' Small Business and Self-Employment Division, really took it on the chin for spending over $4 million of taxpayers’ money to pay for a conference in Anaheim, Calif., the most expensive of all the IRS summits.

What really seemed to gall lawmakers was the Star Trek parody videos that opened the conference, featuring Fink dressed as Mr. Spock, complete with pointy ears.

Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said incredulously, "I swear to God, I have looked at that video over and over again, and I swear I do not see the redeeming value."

If that wasn't enough, Cummings also produced an email between two hotel employees in Anaheim who wrote that the IRS bid on their facility was actually $1 million more than a competing bid from Orlando, Fla.

Asked to comment on two videos that cost $50,000 to produce, Fink sheepishly said, "The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chairman, it's embarrassing, I apologize."

Meanwhile, acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told the committee, "The 2010 Manager meeting held by the Small Business Self-Employed division in Anaheim, which was described in the recent Inspector General's report, is an unfortunate vestige from a prior era."

Werfel, who has walked into a hornets’ nest in dealing with the various controversies his agency faces, indicated that the culture of the IRS was changing, adding, "I am reviewing the full range of IRS operations, processes and practices to focus on how we deliver our mission today and how we can make improvements in the future."

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