House panel passes bill banning IRS workers from using private email for official business

IRS workers would be prohibited from using private email to conduct official business under a bipartisan bill passed Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee.

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The issue gained attention following revelations that Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush used personal email addresses to conduct government business. Both are potential candidates for president in 2016.

"Events over the past month underscore the need to maintain transparent record keeping procedures for executive branch employees," said Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill. "IRS personnel should never use personal email addresses when conducting official government businesses, especially those who routinely handle sensitive taxpayer information."

The bill was one of several passed by the committee that came from the panel's investigation into the way the IRS treated conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status.

Committee Republicans said former IRS official Lois Lerner sent confidential taxpayer information to a private email account. Lerner, who has retired, headed the division that processed applications for tax-exempt status.

The committee passed the email bill on an unrecorded voice vote. Both Republicans and Democrats supported it. The House is expected to take up the bill after Congress returns from its spring break vacation in April.

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IRS policy already prohibits workers from using a personal email account to transmit confidential taxpayer information. The bill would make the policy law.

The use of personal email accounts by government officials became a hot issue after it was disclosed that Clinton used one to conduct government business while she was secretary of state. Clinton has turned over thousands of emails to the State Department, which is reviewing them before it makes them public.

Bush also used a private email when he was governor of Florida. Bush has posted online more than 275,000 emails from his two terms in office.

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