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Stephen Colbert's Super-PAC Approved By FEC

Tracy Bloom |
June 30, 2011 | 2:56 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," was given the OK on Thursday by the Federal Election Committee to form his own Super-PAC, marking the comedian's latest foray into the world of politics.

A triumphant Colbert emerged from the hearing, telling the crowd waiting outside the FEC's headquarters, "Moments ago the Federal Election Committee made their ruling. And ladies and gentlemen I'm sorry to say, we won!"

Colbert announced plans to start a Super-PAC months ago, in a move that was largely seen as the satirist making light of the Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United decision. The ruling allows corporations and unions to spend limitless amounts of money to influence politics. 

"Sixty days ago today on this very spot a young man petitioned the FEC for permission to form a superPAC to raise unlimited monies and used the monies to determine the winner of the 2012 elections," Colbert said, "It was me."

You can bank on soon seeing Colbert promote his new political action committee--named, appropriately enough, "Colbert Super PAC"--on his program,which is fully permissible under the FEC's decision. However, there is one caveat.

According to The Los Angeles Times:

The only restriction the Federal Election Commission laid out in its 5-1 ruling was that Colbert could not promote Colbert Super-PAC on any other shows on Comedy Central, the most likely being "The Daily Show," which precedes his 30-minute satirical program.

If any promotion of the PAC does take place outside of "The Report" on Comedy Central or programs aired on Viacom -- its parent company -- it will be considered a political campaign contribution.

However, some are concerned about possible negative consequences of the FEC giving Colbert a "media exemption," which they worry could potentially have other effects on campaign finance activities.

The Huffington Post reported:

Campaign finance reformers had worried that Colbert's request could potentially open the door to a broad press exemption, allowing political activists connected to media companies to hide funding for political activities from the public. Both the Campaign Legal Center, who's chairman Trevor Potter served as Colbert's lawyer, and Democracy 21 urged the commission to reject the broadened press exemption sought by Colbert and Viacom.

The Campaign Legal Center's FEC Program Director Paul Ryan said in a statement: "An opinion by the FEC permitting all that Mr. Colbert requests would have a sweeping and damaging impact on disclosure laws and the public’s right to know about campaign finance activities."

Democracy 21's Fred Wertheimer stated, "The ‘press exemption’ in the campaign finance laws simply does not apply to allow a corporation like Viacom to secretly finance independent ads for Mr. Colbert’s Super PAC, nor does it allow Viacom to secretly pay for the administrative costs of the Colbert Super PAC.”

Still, the major question being asked now is whether this is merely a joke to the comedian, an issue Colbert addressed after the FEC hearing. 

"Some have cynically asked if this is some kind of joke,” he said. “But I don’t think that participating in democracy is a joke. I don’t think that wanting to know what the rules are is a joke.”

So what does Colbert plan to do with the money his Super-PAC receives?

“There will be others who say, Stephen Colbert, what will you do with the unrestricted Super-PAC money?” he told reporters following the hearing. “To which I say, 'I don’t know. Give it to me and let’s find out.'”

This isn't the first time, by the way, that Colbert has tried to influence politics. You may recall the comedian attempted to run in both the Democratic and Republican South Carolina presidential primaries in the 2008 election, with his popular but ultimately unsuccessful "Hail To The Cheese Stephen Colbert's Nacho Cheese Doritos 2008 Presidential Campaign."



 

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