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Senator calls IRS - and gets answer!

On the recent opening day of Senate Finance Committee hearings about the Internal Revenue Service, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., wished to make a point about the service's inaccessibility to the public. He had received many complaints from constituents, he said, many of whom said they had waited for more than an hour when they called the IRS information number.

Graham whipped out a cell phone, reports Roll Call, and punched up the IRS 800 number, obviously planning to illustrate his point by remaining on hold for the duration of his speech. A minute into his wait - and his speech - a live voice answered the phone. The senator was shocked speechless.Roll Call reports that there were "whispers in the Senate" that the fix was in, that so many IRS officials had been watching the hearings they made sure the phone was answered. An IRS spokesman said there was no way for the agency to rig the phones that way.

Well, we called the number, (800) 829-1040, to check this out. A recorded announcement said information was available only in prerecorded form to callers with push-button phones. The recording advised us that if we wished to speak to a live agent, she should leave a recorded message, which would be answered within 10 working days.

- Leah Garchik