Fan art rendition of comedian Stephen Colbert brandishing a machine gun, Mafia-style.
Stephen Colbert takes aim at campaign finance reform. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Mark Rain/Flickr)

A funny thing happened on the way to the Federal Election Commission, reports the Washington Post. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, the mock-conservative, talking-head host of “The Colbert Report,” received the go-ahead from the FEC to form a “super-political action committee” (PAC) for the 2012 elections. This means that Colbert can officially raise and spend unlimited money in support of his chosen candidates.

Putting the fear of Viacom in the FEC

Campaign finance reformers were admittedly nervous over Stephen Colbert’s petition, fearful that Comedy Central owner Viacom would be allowed to use its nearly bottomless financial resources on the election, without having to disclose. However, the FEC’s 5-1 ruling in Colbert’s favor stipulates that any Viacom assistance outside “The Colbert Report” activities must be treated as “in-kind” contributions and be reported.

You’ve come a long way, campaign finance law

Before 2010, corporate spending in elections was closely regulated. However, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that year opened the floodgates to what the Post calls “unfettered corporate spending” on elections. The SCOTUS ruling made the Colbert super PAC possible. Currently, more than 100 super PACs exist.

It’s no joke … or is it?

Stephen Colbert, who has poked fun at campaign finance rules many times on “The Colbert Report,” was all business before the FEC. However, once the action spilled outside FEC chambers, the cut of his super PAC’s jib became apparent. When asked by reporters if his petition was “some kind of joke,” Colbert responded, tongue in cheek:

“I, for one, don’t think participating in democracy is a joke.”

While accepting credit card donations for the super PAC via an iPad, Colbert put it all in perspective:

“Today, we put liberty on lay-away,” he said.

DIY campaign finance

Bob Edgar, president of the non-partisan, non-profit advocacy organization Common Cause, writes for Politico that Stephen Colbert’s super PAC is both the best and the worst thing that could happen to U.S. campaign finance reform. On one hand, it makes a mockery of campaign finance laws. On the other hand, Edgar suggests, Stephen Colbert is arguably using one of the most powerful weapons available to civilized society – satire – to force change.

America can no longer be allowed to sit back on its heels. Like the famous fictional comedian Eddie Blake from Alan Moore’s graphic novel “Watchmen,” Stephen Colbert realizes that the American dream has come true. Both offer the nation a mirror onto itself, although Colbert’s methods are much less brutal.

From “Watchmen,” Blake explains it all to Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl):

Dreiberg: But the country’s disintegrating. What’s happened to America? What’s happened to the American dream?

The Comedian: [brandishing shotgun] It came true. You’re lookin’ at it. Now c’mon… let’s really put these jokers through some changes.

‘You have your PAC’


Common Cause:


Washington Post:

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