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Video of Duckworth shaming IRS contractor goes viral

By Associated Press & Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 4:57 p.m. HST, Jun 28, 2013

A video showing U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and who lost both her legs in combat, is going viral. The video shows Duckworth at a Congressional hearing, shaming an Internal Revenue Service contractor who claimed a questionable veterans disability benefit to help his business.

Duckworth, who attended the University of Hawaii and graduated from McKinley High School, mocked Strong Castle CEO, Braulio Castillo’s application for a disabled veteran's benefit, which gave Strong Castle a competitive advantage in bidding for government contracts.

Duckworth noted that Castillo sustained a foot injury not in combat but while playing football at a military prep school. Castillo went on to play college football at the University of San Diego, and more than 20 years later, applied for veterans disability payments.

“My feet hurt too,” Duckworth said sarcastically. “In fact, the balls of my feet hurt continuously. So I can understand and ... I’m so sorry that twisting your ankle in high school has now come to hurt you in such a painful way.”

Duckworth asked Castillo how severe his injury was rated by the VA. After Castillo said it was rated at 30 percent, Duckworth pointed to her own arm.

“My right arm was essentially blown off and reattached ... and I’m still in danger of losing my arm. I can’t feel my arm. My disability rating for that arm is 20 percent,” Duckworth said.

“I don’t set the ratings,” Castillo replied.

The video was posted by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darryl Issa, R-Calif., after Wednesday’s hearing. The exchange was featured in a CBS News story, and started to go viral Thursday after it was posted on several websites.

The House committee is investigating government contracts secured by Strong Castle Inc., and whether a friendship between IRS official Gregory Roseman and Castillo, was a factor in the company’s ability to win such large contracts with the IRS. The computer services company has as much as $500 million in contracts with the tax agency.

Roseman said he was advised by his lawyer to invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.

Beth Tucker, the agency’s deputy commissioner for operations support, told lawmakers that the IRS was working to sever its ties with Strong Castle and recently referred its contracts with the company to the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration for further investigation.

Tucker said she also was troubled by other aspects of Strong Castle’s work with the IRS, including allegations that Castillo took advantage of programs in the Small Business Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs to move to the front of the line for IRS contracts.

“Let me be clear, the information that we’ve seen about the personal relationship with Mr. Roseman and Mr. Castillo is inappropriate,” Tucker said. “Mr. Roseman should have recused himself immediately.”

Strong Castle, which was founded just two years ago, scooped up more than a dozen contracts with the IRS in 2012 for computer services potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Castillo testified Wednesday that his company’s dealings with the IRS were lawful and contributed “to the IRS’ mission.” 

He said he didn’t know why Roseman invoked his 5th amendment right and that he wished Roseman had testified. Castillo acknowledged that he and Roseman were friends, had regularly exchanged text messages over about 10 years and attended a Washington Nationals baseball game together, but said nothing was untoward.

“We are a responsible small business,” Castillo said. “Strong Castle remains committed to providing results.”

He added, “We have competed fairly for every IRS contract we’ve received.”

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