(CBS NEWS) -- The IRS may be able to recover a collection of missing emails that, Republicans have suggested, could shed light on the motivations behind the agency's past misconduct.
The IRS said last month that it cannot produce emails from Lois Lerner -- the former IRS official at the heart of the controversy -- from 2009 through April 2011 because of a computer crash that Lerner suffered in 2011. However, Thomas Kane, deputy associate chief counsel at the agency, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week that some of those emails could still be on backup tapes.
"There is an issue as to whether or not there is a - that all of the backup recovery tapes were destroyed on the six-month retention schedule," he said, according to the committee.
The IRS has already spent nearly $10 million producing documents for congressional investigators, including just about every email to and from Lerner that it still has -- 67,000 in all. Still, Republicans have been highly critical of the IRS for failing to produce all of Lerner's communications. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said it suggests that there may have been "nefarious conduct that went much higher than Lois Lerner."
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are complaining that the congressional body has spent too much time on the scandal at the expense of its other oversight duties. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the top Democrat on the committee, sente a letter this week to Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., complaining about Issa's plan to hold the third hearing within the past month with IRS commissioner John Koskinen.
"This public harassment of an agency head is not only an abuse of authority, but a dereliction of the Committee's obligation to conduct responsible oversight on a host of other critical issues within our jurisdiction," Cummings wrote.
While holding more hearings on the IRS scandal, Cummings complained that Issa has ignored requests to hold hearings on issues such as illegal foreclosure abuses, the national backlog of DNA rape evidence samples that have not been tested, and the Target security breach.