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News Briefs II

Hearings Reveal IRS Agent's Plot to Frame Lawmakers

The Washington Post

A rogue Internal Revenue Service agent tried to frame former Senate majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) on money-laundering and bribery charges in a bizarre attempt by the agent to advance his career, current and former IRS agents told the Senate Finance Committee Thursday.

The witnesses, describing the agency as riven by fear, favoritism and foul-ups, said senior IRS managers in Tennessee then covered up for the rogue agent when the scheme was uncovered by his supervisor and two other IRS workers. Top officials instead placed the complainers under investigation, driving one out of the Tennessee office and two out of the agency.

The phony charges were made in 1989, after Baker had left the Senate and completed a stint as President Reagan's chief of staff. The agent, meanwhile, kept his job despite other complaints of drunkenness and sexual harassment - losing it only after an arrest on suspicion of cocaine possession several years later.

Other witnesses also described how agency supervisors often concede multimillion-dollar tax cases to wealthy corporations and individuals, sometimes in hopes of currying favor and perhaps winning a job. Major cases were also closed, witnesses said, in order for managers to improve their rankings on internal agency statistical measures. IRS Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti called the testimony about the bogus case against Baker "deeply disturbing."

In previous hearings this week, the panel heard IRS employees describe how misconduct complaints against superiors are downgraded or shelved and business owners tell of being raided by armed IRS agents on trumped-up or nonexistent charges.

Springer' Owners Say They Will Eliminate All Violence on Show

Los Angeles Times

The owners of the "Jerry Springer Show," which in the past few months has become the nation's top-rated syndicated talk show at the same time it has been embroiled in controversy over the brawls among its panelists, announced Thursday it will eliminate all physical violence from the series.

"We are getting out of the fighting business," Greg Meidel, chairman and chief executive officer of Studios USA, which produces and distributes the show, told the Los Angeles Times. "This show will not be a boxing match."

The decision marks a complete reversal from the unapologetic stance Springer and the show's producers had only a few months ago about the show's content.