Colbert laughing all the way to the PAC
June 30th, 2011
04:30 PM ET
12 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. Oregon Calling

    1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
    2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
    3. a literary genre comprising such compositions.

    Peace 🙂

    June 30, 2011 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  2. ThePickleMan

    I can't wait to see the ads. My body is ready for some epic trolling.

    June 30, 2011 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  3. Ben

    Stephen Colbert for President! He is one of the smartest minds in America right now – and in 2006, he was the first American to have the courage to mock the Bush Administration for their failures to their face at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Utnil that time – post 9/11 no one questioned Bush – he was the first one to confront the president and he showed the press that you can in fact question the president and not be labelled a terrorist (back in those days people weren't so sure anymore). In my mind, he saved America that day – and because of that I will follow him in whatever he does. I really hope that his PAC changes this whole ridiculous political landscape.

    June 30, 2011 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  4. keeth in cali

    @Democrat Class Warfare – Destroying the economy, destroying the country: Point 1: Prove the claims in your screen name. Point 2: Grow up and stop using the word "libtard." This isn't middle school.

    June 30, 2011 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  5. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    Next he'll use his superPAC to buy ads supporting a ficus running for congress. Oh, wait–some other left-wing idiot already did that.

    June 30, 2011 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  6. Republicans united against everyone

    I love this. This is truely awsome go Colbert and the Colbert nation

    June 30, 2011 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  7. Ian

    Comedy is the great medium of communication these days. Glad to see that it's being used to point out incredible flaws in the election process.

    June 30, 2011 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  8. Will

    He should call his PAC "PACism"

    June 30, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  9. CEOs United


    Who does this clown think he is?

    He's making a mockery of our mock democracy.

    June 30, 2011 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    I'm looking forward to ColbertPAC turning its laser eye on all the hypocrisy and outright lying that goes on in campaigns. While the Dems aren't saints, the Repubs certainly take the cake when it comes to doing their best to get folks to vote against their own self-interest.

    June 30, 2011 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    Democrat Class Warfare, etc., etc., etc: Colbert is a very intelligent, insightful political satirist with huge cajones when it comes to nailing your beloved Republicans to the wall. Colbert, afterall, got Grover Norquist to say on camera that if the choice was between raising taxes and letting Grandma die, Norquist said we should let Grandma die and that we could "console ourselves with photos and memories."

    June 30, 2011 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    @mc: It was a guy with your brain power that hired Colbert to perform at the Bush Washington Correspondents Dinner in 2006, where he roasted the Prez.

    June 30, 2011 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  13. D-Nice

    That's awesome. If a hack like Karl Rove can have a PAC, so can Colbert! At least Colbert isn't trying to brainwash red necks.

    June 30, 2011 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    @victim of democrat hypocrisy: Ficus is running as both a Democrat and a Republican.

    See, this is why YOU aren't making your living doing humor; you can't even take the time to google the nonsense you hear Rush spout before you dutifully post it.

    June 30, 2011 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  15. Rickster

    "Oil prices have surged in the last few days and are now less than a dollar from where they were when President Obama made the controversial decision to tap the nation's strategic reserve last Thursday."
    Obama fails again!..............I've never seen anything like it......this guy has the exact opposite of the Midas Touch....everything Obama touches turns to, well, manure.

    June 30, 2011 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  16. Got Money?

    The Citizens United's ruling killed the phrase "money can't buy happiness".

    June 30, 2011 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  17. Jack Be Humble

    I will put my money where Colbert's mouth is, and I hope the whole PAC/SuperPAC system will be revealed for what it is. I also do not believe that a Corporation has all the rights of a Citizen of this country. Yay!

    June 30, 2011 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  18. Lead Baron

    Go Colbert! You got my vote and a little of my middle class blue collar dollars

    June 30, 2011 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |

    I'm sure Colbert would not disagree with anyone in the MSM who suggested that he was being a Dikc.

    June 30, 2011 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  20. Horus

    Sad day for a democracy where its comedians have more integrity, character, and worth than 99% of its politicians.

    June 30, 2011 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  21. Republican Robber Baron

    I LOVE IT! Hilarious. The skit with Grover the never raise taxes under any circumstances was also spot on.

    This gets to the heart of the matter why our political system is so dysfunctional. It's all about the $ and special interests / lobbyists.

    June 30, 2011 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  22. ChuckFromAL

    Colbert is just bringing attention to the fact that there has been no campaign finance reform and our government is bought and paid for by special interest groups. BOTH parties are equally involved in this corruption and until American voters demand campaign finance reform special interest needs will continually be put in front of the needs of average Americans. The more Democratic and Republican voters fight with each other the more successful politicians will be at s c r e w i n g us all. They are destroying America and they will continue to do so until Americans stand together and say NO MORE!

    June 30, 2011 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  23. JLS639

    This is comedy gold and great satire. We may be looking at our time's Jonathan Swift or Voltaire.

    June 30, 2011 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  24. livingston

    He's the only one that is honest about the whole thing! Go Stephen!

    June 30, 2011 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  25. KatR

    A do-nothing Congress created nor passed any legislation that challenged the court's decision. Guess it's up to 'we the people' like Colbert to get the ball running!

    June 30, 2011 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
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