Colbert and Campaign Finance

At the end of June, the Federal Election Commission voted 5-1 to allow Stephen Colbert to move forward with the creation of his Super PAC.  Through this PAC, Colbert will be able to raise and spend unlimited funds on the 2012 presidential election.  However, Viacom Corp., which owns Comedy Central, will have to report any money it gives to Colbert for political activities outside of his show on the network.  Campaign finance reformers welcomed this aspect of the decision because many people speculated that the FEC would allow Viacom to fund Colbert’s political activities without an obligation to report.  This has significant implications given the political nature of other TV personalities such as Rachel Maddow and Glenn Beck, to name a couple.

Super PACs were first created in the wake of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allowed individuals, unions and corporations the right to give unlimited amounts of money to independent organizations to campaign for or against candidates.  A Super PAC cannot give money directly to a candidate for election purposes, but it can spend unlimited money on advocating for or against a candidate independent of that candidates campaign.

In his National Journal interview, Colbert’s lawyer and former FEC Chairman, Trevor Potter, states that he is not engaging in political theater, but providing more ways for people to learn about and discuss issues of campaign finance.  He predicts that the 2012 presidential election will look something like an election with no campaign finance laws.

It is possible that the 2012 elections will create the perfect opportunity for campaign finance activists to increase awareness and excitement for reform.

By Cody Meador.  Cody is an English teacher and recent SMU graduate from Dallas.

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