The dispute regarding the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of Tea Party political groups didn’t strike Real Time host Bill Maher as a big deal on Friday night.
“Is it unreasonable to target an anti-tax group?” Maher asked in response. “This is, after all, a group that named itself after a tax revolt. That wants to abolish the IRS. It’s like when a cop gets shot. Cops take that kind of personal.”
However, while his panelists did mostly agree that this particular tempest was not about President Barack Obama, MSNBC host S.E. Cupp wasn’t quite as dismissive.
“I don’t need it to be illegal for it to be a scandal,” said S.E. Cupp. “And the president did not have to know about it for it to be a scandal.”
New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin wasn’t prepared to let the matter go, either.
“I think we will find, ultimately, that the administration clearly understood what was happening,” Sorkin said. “I think that’s where it’s going. You heard just in the hearing today that Neil Wollen, from the Treasury Department — a guy I know — knew about this.”
And if Wollen knew, Sorkin said, so did other people in the administration.
The real scandal, Maher argued, was campaign financing.
“This is the result of Citizens United,” Maher said. “We gave the IRS a task they shouldn’t have: to try to tell whether these people are ‘political’ or ‘a social welfare group.’ Now, they were plainly trying to cheat — as liberal groups do, too.”
One potential benefit from the issue coming to light, Cupp said, was the opportunity for genuine tax reform, provided lawmakers can steer clear of partisan bickering.
“If Republicans are serious about this, they won’t make it about Obama,” she explained. “Make this about the need for tax reform and they’ll make this about the need for a limited government.”
“Good luck with that,” Maher said with a laugh.
Each of the panelists and Maher, though, agreed with Sorkin’s assessment that the 501(c)(4) tax designation for these types of groups was “bullshit” because it’s impossible to identify their donors.
“You know, all the bad liberal commie liberal stuff happens in Cincinnati,” said filmmaker Michael Moore, referring to the IRS office at the center of the controversy. “We might as well admit that.”
Instead of being punished, Moore argued, the groups in question were being asked questions because they didn’t want to pay taxes.
“Frankly, the real problem with the IRS is that they let General Electric not pay any taxes, and 50 other corporations,” Moore continued. “That’s the real scandal — and frankly, I want them to ask these questions.”
Watch the discussion, in video posted by Mediaite on Friday, below.