NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

June 14, 2013

Bureaucrats have fun at our expense

Meet Faris Fink.

In real life, he is the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service’s Small Business and Self-employed Division.

But don’t let that dreary title fool you.

Faris Fink also has a fantasy life, and in it he is Mister Spock, first officer of the starship Enterprise.

That’s right, Commissioner Fink is among top-level taxmen who star in an IRS “training” video that spoofs the “Star Trek” TV series and movie franchise.

The video was featured at a 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif., for the 2,600 employees of Fink’s division.

In one scene, a character based on Pavel Chekov, a Russian crew member of the Enterprise, tells another character: “Back in Russia, I dreamed someday I’d be rich and famous.”

“Me, too,” the other IRS star shoots back. “That’s why I became a public servant.”

Set the Phasers for stunned, Mr. Fink.

The conference cost more than $4 million, including $50,000-plus for Fink’s video and another video starring merry IRS bureaucrats performing something called the “Cupid Shuffle.”

And, of course, all of this was on your dime.

Last week, Commissioner Fink appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to say he was sorry for wasting your money on his lavish conference and silly videos.

“It’s embarrassing. I apologize,” he said.

Apology not accepted, Commissioner Fink, for two reasons.

First, you’ll note we said “Commissioner Fink,” not ex-commissioner. Fink is still on the government payroll more than two years after Anaheim, collecting his no-doubt six-figure salary.

Live long and prosper, Faris Fink.

Far more important, this boondoggle was no aberration.

— Item: A report by the Treasury Department’s inspector general said Anaheim was one of at least 220 IRS shindigs that cost taxpayers $50 million between 2010 and 2012. At one of the other conferences, the IRS paid for a video takeoff of “Gilligan’s Island” to entertain — we mean train, its minions. To its credit, the IRS significantly reduced the number of its conferences between 2010 and 2012, from 152 in 2010 down to 24 last year. But who has any confidence the culture has really changed or the excessive spending won’t resume once no one is looking?

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