CNN's John Avlon: Ted Cruz Turning IRS Scandal Into 'Partisan Hackathon'

On the June 27 edition of CNN Newsroom, a panel discussed new calls from Ted Cruz that the IRS scandal needs a special prosecutor. John Avlon of The Daily Beast wasn’t buying it, trashing the Texas senator for leading a supposed witch hunt. He also argued that the root of the problem was the Citizens United ruling, and that the real solution is more campaign finance reform.

When host Carol Costello questioned Avlon about the necessity of a special prosecutor, he rushed to dismiss the issue: “I think probably a special prosecutor is at this moment not necessary as is calling for the impeachment of the Attorney General of the United States...Whenever Ted Cruz or Darrell Issa walks into the matter it immediately turns into a partisan hackathon as opposed to a search for the truth.” Thankfully, Will Cain of The Blaze was there to counter Avlon, and offered quite the opposite perspective [MP3 audio here; video below]:

First of all, I have to push back on my friend John. The only thing, the only thing pushing us towards the truth in the story is partisanship. The only thing revealing the evidence is the fact there are Republicans pushing for this information.

Avlon lectured that the main problem with the scandal was not really that conservative groups had their applications delayed by the IRS. Rather, he brought up the common liberal talking point that this situation is the result of “unintended consequence of Citizens United which flooded the zone with a bunch of partisan organizations that want a tax exempt status. And so, that is part of the legacy we're dealing with here. That should not be lost because it is  essential understanding of how we got here.”

Cain was appalled at this assertion, explaining that the ‘Citizens United is responsible for all problems’ meme from the left “ is explaining away or providing an excuse of what was clearly an ugly abuse of government power.”

Avlon was not at all willing to back down from his argument. The real concern, according to the Daily Beast editor, is that the IRS does not have enough power:

The IRS hasn't had the regulatory authority to deal with people who are trying to hijack non-profit status to pursue for-profit partisan aims with organizations that are supposed to be dedicated towards social welfare. So you have a huge massive partisan economy that is trying to exploit Supreme Court decisions and exploit tax exempt status.

CNN often brings Avlon on when the cable network wants to bash conservatives. On June 25, he praised the victory of establishment Republicans, calling them the "sanity caucus."

The relevant portion of the transcript is below:

CNN
CNN Newsroom
June 27, 2014
9:36 a.m. Eastern

CAROL COSTELLO, host: Good morning. Senator Ted Cruz says a special prosecutor should be brought in to investigate. John, wouldn't that be a good idea?

JOHN AVLON, The Daily Beast: I'm not sure Ted Cruz is often accused of having good ideas when it comes to impartial inquiries. I think probably a special prosecutor is at this moment not necessary as is calling for the impeachment of the Attorney General of the United States. What is necessary is for the White House and Democrats to start taking this scandal seriously, and for to us to try to de-politicize it. Whenever Ted Cruz or Darrell Issa walks into the matter it immediately turns into a partisan hackathon as opposed to a search for the truth.

COSTELLO: So Will, if a special prosecutor was called in, who would that be, what person could possibly appease both sides?

WILL CAIN, The Blaze: First of all,  I have to push back on my friend John. The only thing, the only thing pushing us towards the truth in the story is partisanship. The only thing revealing the evidence is the fact there are Republicans pushing for this information. Who that special prosecutor could be, Carol, I don't have a name for you but I'll tell you why it's necessary to have a special prosecutor, because the government cannot investigate itself and the only evidence you need of that is this. [John] Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, knew in February that those e-mails was missing, that the hard drive had crashed. In May he sat before Congress and said I would provide for you everything, all of the e-mails and not until June did he then bury in a 27-page report that some were missing, that the hard drive was missing and two years of data was gone. The IRS is not answering questions unless asked directly. It's not forthcoming, it’s not giving information. A prosecutor needs to get in there and force it out of them.

COSTELLO: So John, Lois Lerner, let’s take her, she’s pleaded the fifth, but if she would testify wouldn't that go a long way toward ending this controversy?

AVLON: It sure would. And look, politics is perception. The fact that Lois Lerner takes the fifth and then her e-mails magically disappear doesn't add anything to the administration's credibility on this issue. So I completely hear Will Cain's point, but just a couple reality checks are necessary. First of all, you know, over 25,000 of her e-mails have been handed over to the point that Tom Foreman made in his package before. Second of all, the reason we're in this crisis situation isn't because any conservative groups had their applications denied. None were denied. Many were delayed. It's also an unintended consequence of Citizens United which flooded the zone with a bunch of partisan organizations that want a tax exempt status. And so, that is part of the legacy we're dealing with here. That should not be lost because it is  essential understanding of how we got here.

CAIN: That is such, John and I have had this conversation. That is explaining away or providing an excuse of what was clearly an ugly abuse of government power. You know, here is the best case scenario for the government at this point, this is the best case, and John knows this about me. My ultimate goal in any of the conversations isn't to indict President Barack Obama. It's to emphasize the truth and in my estimation which means reducing government power. The best case scenario is, you have a bureaucracy run amuck, perhaps run by people with little authoritarian impulses to sit the IRS on senators with virtually no evidence they did anything wrong as Lois Lerner did to Chuck Grassley, that's your best case scenario right now, an example of the problem with an expansive government. Your worst case scenario is much deeper.

COSTELLO: John, care to respond?

AVLON: No, look, the authoritarian impulse argument here is shadowy and invoking spectors of Nixon. Frankly, part of the problem is that the IRS hasn't had the regulatory authority to deal with people who are trying to hijack non-profit status to pursue for-profit partisan aims with organizations that are supposed to be dedicated towards social welfare. So you have a huge massive partisan economy that is trying to exploit Supreme Court decisions and exploit tax exempt status. I want to be very clear here, though. Democrats are in denial that this stinks to high heaven and this needs to be dealt with directly, and they can't simply wish it away. America was founded on tax revolt. The IRS is nobody's idea of a good political ally right here. So they need to take it seriously, but when Ted Cruz is calling for Eric Holder's impeachment, we're deep into the silly season rather than trying to deal with the problem.

COSTELLO: I'll just pose this final question to you, Will. So, we have a new IRS commissioner, Lois Lerner has been pushed out. The IRS admitted it, you know, there was wrongdoing involved and supposedly they're not doing it anymore. What is the end result? What does Ted Cruz want? Criminal charges? Will that settle it?

CAIN: Well, there certainly should be criminal charges if this turns out to be true. The end result Carol has to be to find the truth. To find out if the government is representing all of the people in this country or if it singles out some people because of their political perspective for special treatment. It takes a special perspective to look at this situation and think that the answer to this is the IRS needs more power or more money. The IRS should be reduced to is ten guys in Washington, D.C. processing flat tax returns. That's what we need from the IRS, not some piece of government bureaucracy invading every one of our lives.

COSTELLO: I don't think that's going to happen any time soon.

AVLON: I agree with Will Cain on the need for tax simplification but it doesn't solve this particular problem right now.

CAIN: It would do a lot.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.