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Entries in SStephen Colbert (1)

Saturday
May212011

Stephen Colbert Super PAC Hits A Snag

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In April, late night comedian Stephen Colbert launched a "super PAC," the newest form of political fundraising committee, allowing him to reprise his previous efforts to lampoon the outsized role of corporate money in American elections.

But over the past month, what started as a humorous dressing down of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark campaign finance ruling in the case of Citizens United has turned into a unexpectedly serious look at the complexities of the way the government regulates political spending.

In recent days, campaign lawyers of all stripes have weighed in on the legal issues facing Colbert's super PAC, and the comedian himself had to hire a high-powered Washington election lawyer to try and resolve whether talking about his fundraising committee on his late night show, The Colbert Report, could create legal headaches for Comedy Central's parent company, Viacom.

Colbert has even sought formal guidance from the Federal Election Commission on several tricky legal questions. Though when he arrived in Washington to submit his request to the regulatory panel, he made it abundantly clear this is still more about laughs than anything else.

The real issue facing the FEC is whether the air time Colbert uses to promote his super PAC could be legally construed to be an in kind corporate contribution, and if so, whether Viacom will be forced to try and determine how much that air time is worth.

Election lawyer Trevor Potter is trying to join his client in straddling the line between yuks and genuine legal questions. Potter has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to help clarify Viacom's legal responsibilities and has even appeared on Colbert's show to loft softballs for easy punch lines.

"Can you name anyone who has gone to jail for breaking the law with their PAC?" Colbert asked Potter on a recent episode.

"Not a person," Potter replied.

"Ah," Colbert shot back. "That's my kind of law!"

Scott Thomas, a former FEC commissioner, said his former FEC colleagues have a challenge on their hands. Some aspects of Colbert's filing are clearly going to be tough to take seriously. But there are implications, he said, for other political figures who make partisan appeals on television news shows.

"Depending on how the FEC rules, this could turn into a green light for Fox or MSNBC to start to allow personalities to actively solicit donations on their shows," Thomas said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio