In an attempt to mock the country’s lax campaign finance law, the comedian can use Viacom funds to create political ads to run on Comedy Central
In an attempt to mock the country’s lax campaign finance laws, Colbert gained approval from the Federal Election Commission on Thursday to seek funding for his new Super PAC from his own network and its owner, Viacom.
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In a five-to-one ruling, the FEC issued an advisory opinion that will allow Colbert to use funds from Viacom to create advertisements for his Super PAC, dubbed the Colbert Super PAC.
The Comedy Central host's decision to be a PAC came in the wake of last year’s divisive Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to donate unlimited amounts of money to Super PACs, formally known as independent-expenditure only committees.
“The whole idea of a Super PAC is based on Cititzens United, “ said Mark Ladov, Counsel in the Democracy Program of the Brennan Center for Justice. “You wouldn’t have a Super PAC that could accept unlimited corporate contributions if it weren’t for that decision.”
Unlike normal PACs, which donate money directly to candidates and cannot receive donations from corporations or union, Super PACs can accept unlimited donations from almost anyone. In spite of their independence, Super PACs can endorse specific candidates in advertisements but cannot inform them of their plans to do so.
One hitch to the FEC's ruling, though: It limited in scope. Colbert was awarded a media exemption, which permits media outlets to report and comment on campaigns without it counting as any kind of political contribution.
That means the Colbert Super PAC can use Viacom resources to publicize the Super PAC during "The Colbert Report," but not beyond that thirty-minute period.
If it pays to run ads on other networks or outside of Colbert's time slot, it will have to disclose the details of the contributions and expenditures.
Colbert first announced his intentions on his show back in April, and said that Viacom lawyers had told him he could not proceed.
He used a recurring segment on his show and his Twitter account to promote the seemingly faux-cause, and in May he appeared at an FEC hearing to present his case.
This raise some concern among supporters of campaign finance reforms.
"The fear was that all of a sudden Viacom could say anything it did to support the Colbert Super PAC was not a contribution, and part of the exemption," Ladov said. "Then Fox News could, behind the scenes, give money to Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin to support their Super PACs, and say it is only doing it as part of the emdia exemption they created."
It would appear the narrow scope of the FEC's ruling has assuaged those fears.
He will address the ruling on Thursday night's edition of "The Colbert Report," where this all began.