Stephen Colbert gets OK for 'super PAC.' What will he use it for?(Read article summary)
Comedian Stephen Colbert will form a 'super PAC,' which can raise gobs of money, to air political ads ahead of Election 2012. He will have to disclose donors though, the FEC said.
Stephen Colbert is forming a â€śsuper PACâ€ť to produce and air political ads prior to the 2012 election. On Thursday the Federal Election Commission gave the â€śColbert Reportâ€ť comedian permission to proceed with his plan to create such an entity, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash.
Colbert celebrated outside the FEC offices by taking donations from passers-by on an iPad equipped to swipe credit cards.
â€śToday we put liberty on lay-away,â€ť he said.
The FEC did not give Colbert everything he asked for, though. He had asked commissioners to rule on whether he had to disclose donations to his super PAC from Viacom, his corporate employer. Seeing as heâ€™s a journalist â€“ albeit a fake one â€“ he suggested that maybe he qualified for a press exemption from disclosure regulations.
The FEC said no, sort of. Colbert doesnâ€™t have to disclose Viacom resources used to create ads that run on his own show. If they run elsewhere â€“ on â€śThe Oâ€™Reilly Factor,â€ť say â€“ then Viacomâ€™s help must be publicly reported.
Watchdog groups were relieved by the ruling, as theyâ€™d thought that Colbertâ€™s press exemption request, if fully approved, could have blown another hole in a campaign finance system thatâ€™s already full of them.
OK, fine. Now letâ€™s get to the questions weâ€™re really interested in: Why is Colbert doing this? Whatâ€™s he going to do with his brand new campaign finance organization? What sorts of issues will the â€śColbert Reportâ€ť host be pushing?
He hasn't said yet. But we say he did this to create a venue for performance art that reflects his own political views. Colbert is more of an activist than is his fellow Comedy Central star Jon Stewart. Would Stewart appear at a congressional hearing and testify on immigrant labor after working on a farm for one day? No, he wouldnâ€™t. Colbert did, though.
â€śI believe one day of me studying anything makes me an expert,â€ť said Colbert when he testified in character at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing last September.
Colbert is probably going to use his real super PAC for activities that will highlight how chaotic the political money system has become. Just look at the tweets he sent out prior to Thursdayâ€™s FEC hearing. Itâ€™ll be BYOB, he noted â€“ â€śbring your own billions.â€ť Also, he said that PAC stands for â€śPlastic and/or cashâ€ť and that followers should join him outside the FEC afterward and bring friends, â€śespecially if theyâ€™re tiny green men printed on bills.â€ť
Election-season ads from real PACs are ripe for satire â€“ theyâ€™re usually scary stuff about how China is buying up the US, or unions are being destroyed, or somesuch. We can envision Colbertâ€™s super PAC ads now â€“ the horror movie sound track, the grainy spinning photos, and the tag line, which will be something along the lines of â€śwe buy democracy so you donâ€™t have to,â€ť or â€śCongress is for sale â€“ itâ€™s behind the Dockers at Costco.â€ť
Yes, the winner in all this may just be Viacomâ€™s and Colbertâ€™s pockets, as they find ever-more creative ways to manipulate the actual political system for comedic and ratings gains. But as weâ€™ve noted above, Colbert has an activist, liberal edge that occasionally comes through. During last Septemberâ€™s hearings on immigrant labor, he dropped his mask for a moment.
â€śI like talking about people who donâ€™t have any power,â€ť he said in what appeared to be all seriousness. â€śAnd it seems like some of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but donâ€™t have any rights as a result.â€ť