Colbert laughing all the way to the PAC
June 30th, 2011
04:30 PM ET
11 years ago

Colbert laughing all the way to the PAC

Washington (CNN) – It was no joke Thursday at the Federal Election Committee hearing as Comedian Stephen Colbert gained approval to start his "superPAC" by a 5-1 "media exemption vote."

But in the crowd outside the FEC's headquarters following the vote it was clear the host of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central had a straight-faced delivery and this matter of election fundraising regulation had some laughing – and throwing money.

"Moments ago the Federal Election Committee made their ruling," Colbert said to cheers, "And ladies and gentlemen I'm sorry to say, we won!"

The FEC ruling specified that all Colbert superPAC activity would need to be reported and any ads run on Colbert's television program can be funded by Viacom –who owns Comedy Central– without reporting. But if shown on other shows or networks, all Viacom-funded Colbert ads must disclose all financial involvement.

In some ways, while the ruling allows Colbert to found his PAC, raise money and produce and buy television time for political advertisements-it raises a host of questions for what implications there will be for other PACs.

Former FEC Chairman Robert Lenhard said the ruling "means people can use their network's resources to fund their own PAC ads without needing to report it on their network, on their show."

And what does it mean for Colbert himself?

"I think he's going to have fun," Lenhard said, "But until he gets at least a million dollars he's not going to run many ads outside of his show."

The satirist announced plans months ago to form his superPAC, which makes light of Citizens United, the conservative political advocacy group that won a landmark Supreme Court ruling rolling back campaign finance regulation.

"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."

"Thank you for standing with me for freedom," he said, "It has been said freedom isn't free, today we have placed a sizeable down payment, today we have put liberty on layaway."

Inside the earlier meeting, FEC Commissioner Donald McGahn said his concern was not mentioning the PAC itself on "The Colbert Report" show, but was about advertising on other shows and networks and the administration of the PAC itself.

"I feel like I'm in a position to decide what's part of Colbert Report and what's not for purposes of FEC disclosure," McGahn said.

Trevor Potter, Stephen Colbert's lawyer answered, "My client here is Mr. Colbert and the proposed Colbert superPAC, and thus not Viacom, the owner of the media entity."

Another question was the content of the ads themselves, in which Colbert, in his only statement from the witness table, answered, "We don't know what we're going to do with the ads, where we would place them, because we don't have the PAC yet."

Adding to that, Potter said Colbert "did intend some of the advertising to include, express advocacy, mention candidates."

Outside, in a sea of supporters, Colbert wasted no time soliciting donations and said he'd start airing ads as soon as he gets enough money.

"I don't know about you but I do not accept limits on my free speech, I don't know about you but I do not accept the status quo. But I do accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express," he said.

At the conclusion of his speech, Colbert's staff emerged with iPads equipped with credit card swipers.

Colbert himself started personally accepting donations, chatting with fans and collecting small contributions for 15 minutes.

As he departed, Colbert was showered by dollar bills. When asked what corporate America has to done to the election process, Colbert said, "Made it free-er! Money equals speech."

Filed under: FEC • Stephen Colbert
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Citizen's United has effectively made it impossible to charge or convict a politician of accepting bribes, provided the money goes into a superPAC.

    June 30, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  2. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    Good! The more stupid libtards donate to this imbecile, the less they'll have to send to the other imbecile in the Whitehouse.

    June 30, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  3. fbmarky

    Ste-phen! Ste-phen! Ste-phen!

    The funny thing will be watching the conservative response-ads. It's going to be an interesting election!

    June 30, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. Joseph

    THIS IS CLASSIC...Can not wait to watch his show tonight!~

    June 30, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. vic , nashville ,tn

    It’s going to be fun. I hope he will use his PAC to explain how other PACs misleading voters

    June 30, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. MikefromWV

    Maybe it's now possible to have someone advocating for the people of the middle class, and for those at the bottom of the ladder, who cannot afford the rich man's advocacy!

    June 30, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. jackal & jester

    The fact he has a pac means that 2012 will be for the dems. Remember him running for president.

    June 30, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. dave

    So he will make a mockery of the the system to expose how bs campaign financing and our elections are. Or he will stick to making jokes and wasting peoples time and money. I'm hope this isn't a waste like the dc concert.

    June 30, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. Mark

    I am genuinely interested in seeing what Colbert plans on doing with the money. He plays a republican on his show, so if he wants to stay "in character", he'd have to donate money to GOP endeavors instead of democratic ones. I think he was just trying to make a point about PAC's more than anything else, but he's the type that will just keep running with it until something stops him.

    June 30, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  10. Mike in NJ

    To 'Democrat Class Warfare' – If I know Mr. Colbert, you sir are about to be surprised at what Mr. Colbert will do with this money. He will make it clear that the Citizen's United case was wrongly decided, by using it to its fullest extent. Watch out, Politics, you're about to be put ON NOTICE!

    June 30, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. Democrat Class Warfare-Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    Sorry about my comment earlier, I'm mad at my mom because she won't help me with my enema, it prescription and she won't administer it!

    June 30, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  12. Sanandra

    I have a really hard time taking seriously any comments wherein people refer to others as "libtards" or "repugs", etc. Grow up people. You're not 7... but you're acting that way.

    June 30, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. Oregon Calling

    Go Colbert!!!!!!!!!!!! As others have said, I will be tuning in this evening.

    Peace 🙂

    June 30, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |

    @Democrat Class Warfare – Destroying the economy, destroying the country
    Good! The more stupid libtards donate to this imbecile, the less they'll have to send to the other imbecile in the Whitehouse.

    Puerile drivel as usual. . . . . .

    June 30, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. banglainey

    i am definitely going to be doanting

    June 30, 2011 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  16. Jodi

    He left some of the money thrown his way on the ground as his suv sped off. I consider the two dollars I picked up, the first expenditure of his super PAC. Thanks for supporting a nonprofit focused on balancing the environment and the economy!

    June 30, 2011 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  17. Jack

    Did he just go from Media + Entertainment hybrid to Media + Entertainment + Government hybrid?

    June 30, 2011 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  18. capiers

    It's interesting how time and time again it has been proven that Democrats have a higher IQ then Rebulicans. So who's the idiot.? "Libtards" that is the best you can come up with. Point made!!!

    June 30, 2011 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. Ed Texas

    I wonder if that other comedy channel out there – Faux News – will start their own Super (GOP/Tea Party) PAC also?

    June 30, 2011 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  20. twophad

    Let the fun begin! And thanks, Colbert, for educating (sorry-couldn't find a better word) people a little as to how these idiotic institutions work!

    June 30, 2011 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  21. mc

    You guys realize that he is a conservative, right?

    June 30, 2011 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  22. Jessica

    Today the Colbert Nation is a winner

    June 30, 2011 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  23. Jessica

    @MC, no he is a comedian and a democrat.

    June 30, 2011 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  24. Chuck

    I have a feeling the bulk of the money raised by the SuperPAC will end up going to one charity group or another. Colbert is just trying to make a point about how badly the Supreme Court screwed up.

    June 30, 2011 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  25. Jena

    mc - You realize he's just a comedian playing a character, and that he's only making fun of conservatives...right?

    June 30, 2011 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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