Hollyweird, meet reality.
The WSJ has a must-read op-ed exposing how liberal comedian Stephen Colbert’s campaign finance gag blew up in his face. In an attempt to protest the Supreme Court’s ruling last year striking down major portions of the speech-stifling McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, Colbert set out to form a political action committee and show how massive gobs of unrestricted corporate cash could flood the system.
Except, well, it ain’t as easy as Colbert thought it would be.
Institute for Justice attorneys Steve Simpson and Paul Sherman expose the Comedy Central clown’s mockery gone awry:
Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert, like most of his friends and allies on the left, thinks that last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is, literally, ridiculous. To make his case that the ruling invites “unlimited corporate money” to dominate politics, Mr. Colbert decided to set up a political action committee (PAC) of his own. So far, though, the joke’s been on him.
The hilarity began last month, when Mr. Colbert began to have difficulty setting up his PAC, which is a group that can raise money to run political ads or make contributions to candidates. So he called in Trevor Potter, a former Federal Elections Commission (FEC) chairman who is now a high-powered Washington lawyer.
Mr. Potter delivered some unfunny news: Mr. Colbert couldn’t set up his PAC because his show airs on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, and corporations like Viacom cannot make contributions to PACs that give money to candidates. As Mr. Potter pointed out, Mr. Colbert’s on-air discussions of the candidates he supports might count as an illegal “in-kind” contribution from Viacom to Mr. Colbert’s PAC.
All was not lost, however. As Mr. Potter explained, the comedian might still be able to set up a “Super PAC,” a group that can raise unlimited sums of money as long as it spends it only on independent ads, without donating at all to candidates. Super PACs exist because of another case that proponents of campaign-finance law despise, SpeechNow.org v. FEC.
So the newly dubbed “Colbert Super PAC” was off to the races. Mr. Colbert could finally show us how amusing it is to raise unlimited corporate dollars and spend them on political ads.
Or so it seemed. On May 11, Mr. Potter returned with more bad news: Viacom didn’t like Mr. Colbert’s plan because his on-air commentary might still amount to a contribution from Viacom to his Super PAC. It’s difficult to place a dollar value on airtime, so a reporting mistake could put both Viacom and Mr. Colbert in legal hot water. Isn’t campaign-finance law funny?
Human Events’ John Hayward gets the last laugh with his own lampoon of Colbert. Read it all.