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John Koskinen, new head of the Internal Revenue Service. / J. Scott Applewhite, AP

CINCINNATI -- Newly appointed IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Thursday during a visit to Cincinnati that he shares the pain of local agency workers who have been put into the national spotlight in the wake of last year's targeting scandal.

After all, Koskinen was born in Cleveland, raised in nearby Ashland, Ky., and still has family in the Dayton, Ohio, area.

"When this all started unfolding in the newspapers and well before the White House asked me to consider becoming commissioner, my heart really went out to everyone unfairly tarred by this," said Koskinen, who held meetings with workers at the downtown Cincinnati offices at the heart of the controversy as well as at the IRS' massive return processing center in Covington. "Were some of the activities inappropriate? Yes. But there was a fairly broad brush and there were a lot of people that had their reputations harmed."

Thursday's visit was Koskinen's first out-of-town office visit since taking over the embattled agency. He hopes to go to other IRS offices around the country but acknowledged picking Cincinnati first given its high-profile status last year. The area is a major hub for the IRS with more than 5,500 workers, making it the region's 15th-largest employer.

In an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer late Thursday, Koskinen said he came away "extremely impressed with the professionalism, skill and dedication of all of these employees."

The agency acknowledged last May that agents in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., improperly selected political groups for extra screening as they applied for nonprofit status over the previous two or three years, and most of those groups were conservative, raising allegations of political bias at the IRS. That led to the resignation of acting Commissioner Steven Miller. President Barack Obama nominated Koskinen last fall as permanent commissioner, and he was sworn in earlier this month.

Koskinen said he is committed to getting all four different investigations into the controversy "concluded as effectively and quickly as possible."

"In the end for us, it's about knowing that the IRS responded to this in the best way possible and eliminated anything that contributed to it to the extent that it could," he said.

One of those investigations is being conducted by the Department of Justice and the FBI. House Republicans alleged Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder had put an Obama campaign donor in charge of the investigation. Barbara Bosserman, a Department of Justice lawyer, has contributed $6,100 to Obama's campaigns since 2008, Federal Elections Commission records show.

Justice Department officials did not respond to requests for comment, but FBI Director James Comey said the FBI's investigation is moving forward. "I don't know who she is, so I can't even comment on that," he told reporters Thursday.

Koskinen said that one of his biggest goals is to rebuild public trust in the IRS.

Contributing: Gregory Korte of USA TODAY



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: New IRS chief vows to rebuild public trust

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