(Bloomberg) A central character in the 14-month dispute in Congress over the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups is a computer hard drive.

The device in question belonged to Lois Lerner, the former IRS official accused by Republicans of giving extra scrutiny to small-government groups seeking tax-exempt status. The IRS says a catastrophic failure—the crash of her computer hard drive followed by the recycling of backup tapes—means two years’ worth of her e-mails were wiped out.

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