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Is Stephen Colbert trying to buy Senate seat in South Carolina?

Stephen Colbert's decision to campaign for the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Jim DeMint gives the famous funnyman yet another chance to educate Americans on how to game the US campaign finance system.

By Staff writer / December 11, 2012

Stephen Colbert presents an award onstage at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles in this Sept. 23 file photo.

John Shearer/Invision/AP/File

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Is Stephen Colbert trying to buy a US Senate seat from South Carolina? It kinda sorta sounded like he was during Monday night’s “Colbert Report," as he speculated about transferring nearly a million dollars in untraceable former "super PAC" cash into a secret Palmetto State slush fund.

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“That would be horrible if that came out. Which it wouldn’t, because like I said it’s impossible to trace,” said Mr. Colbert on the Senate subject.

Let’s back up and explain the context here, shall we? Last week Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina announced he’ll resign to run the Heritage Foundation, a conservative D.C. think tank. Senator DeMint’s term runs until 2014, and GOP South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley gets to pick a replacement to fill the seat until then. South Carolina native Colbert immediately launched a tongue-in-cheek effort to persuade Governor Haley to pick him – although “tongue-in-cheek” is a pretty mild descriptor for Colbert’s comedic style.

“My network contract prohibits me from taking on another full-time job. So the Senate would be perfect,” he said Monday night.

Here’s where the money thing comes in. Colbert used to have a super political-action committee, which he used, among other things, to mount a notional run for “president of South Carolina” during the GOP primaries. But last month, he suddenly shut down the super PAC, even though it still contained almost a million dollars.

What he was doing was taking things a step further to continue to illuminate the netherworld of US campaign finance law. With on-air advice from his personal lawyer, former Federal Election Commission head Trevor Potter, he legally laundered his super PAC stash through a couple of 501 (c)(4) nonprofit groups, essentially making it disappear.

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