Stephen Colbert’s "super PAC" disclosed Monday night that it has raised more than $1 million. A total of $1,023,121.34, to be precise. The vast majority of it came from individual donors, including Jimmy Carter. Of course, this particular Jimmy Carter lives in San Diego and is not an ex-president, but it’s still an exciting name, no?
A Kennedy – Trevor Kennedy – also sent a few hundred bucks, as did Gavin Newsom, lieutenant governor of California, and a number of people who listed fake names that are unprintable on a family website.
But here’s our question: Is $1,023,121.34 a lot of money in the world of super political action committees? Is the Colbert organization part of the 1 percent, campaign finance-wise, or part of the 99 percent?
It’s definitely middle class. One million bucks is nothing to be ashamed of, as PACs go. The conservative Club for Growth super PAC has raised about $1.3 million this election cycle, for instance, according to the watchdog group Center for Responsive Finance.
But scroll down the super PAC listings at the Center for Responsive Finance's Open Secrets website and you see that Colbert’s group can’t measure up its checkbook with the big dogs. Consider American Crossroads, a super PAC linked to GOP guru Karl Rove, a frequent Colbert target. (On "The Colbert Report,” the comedian has depicted Mr. Rove as a canned ham wearing glasses.) American Crossroads has raised almost $7 million this election cycle. Is that a canned ham we hear, laughing while its aspic jiggles?
Then there’s Restore Our Future, a super PAC that supports Mitt Romney. It’s the wealthiest such organization in the current race, having raised more than $12 million this election cycle. That can buy a lot of anti-Gingrich commercials. (We’ve checked – there is no truth to the rumor that Restore Our Future drove to its vacation cottage with its cash strapped to the roof of the car.)
Even Endorse Liberty, the super PAC that endorses Ron Paul, has spent more than $3 million this cycle. That would have bought a lot of zeppelin rides and unicorns.
Zeppelin rides and unicorns are what the Colbert-linked group has pretended to lavish cash on, of course. Colbert has regained control of the organization, by the way, as we predicted he would. He had turned it over to Jon Stewart while he pretended to explore a run for president of South Carolina. When he wanted it back, Stewart held it hostage. Colbert regained his money Monday night after an extended chase scene that traveled through both shows, involved Stewart hiding on the set of “The View” in a wig, and featured ample amounts of great 1970s-era chase-scene music.
On his show, Colbert noted that he had gotten his money back just in time for the Jan. 31 deadline for super PACS to release donor information. Not just his group, but other such independent expenditure groups would now be releasing info, he noted.
“It’s a great day for transparency because tomorrow voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida will finally have the vital information that would have been useful before they voted,” Colbert said.
Yes, you got it – he’s making fun there. That’s why he’s got a super PAC, to comically illuminate the faults and absurdities of the US campaign finance world.
The subject of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and her finger-wagging tiff with President Obama is still burning up the Internet. Just go to Twitter and type in “Jan Brewer” – the tweets will pile up faster than you can read them. It’s as if she’s suddenly become as Web-popular as Ron Paul.
So here’s the obvious question: Did she intend to have some sort of confrontation there Wednesday in front of the cameras at the Phoenix airport? We think probably not – in politics, as in life, happenstance usually explains more incidents than does conspiracy. But whatever her plan, Governor Brewer has benefited from Waggate in at least one respect: She’s selling a lot more books.
That’s right. Her memoir “Scorpions for Breakfast” was published last November to generally underwhelming sales. Earlier this week, Amazon listed it as the 285,685th bestselling book in America. By way of comparison, Newt Gingrich’s Civil War novel, “The Battle of the Crater,” is currently No. 39,967.
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But for a conservative Republican political author, there’s nothing like an appearance with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Channel in which your book title gets mentioned. On Amazon’s bestseller list, “Breakfast with Scorpions” on Friday was ... eighth! That’s an unbelievable jump. In terms of political bookmanship, that puts Brewer up there with Sarah Palin and “Going Rogue.”
Sarah Palin wrote the forward to “Breakfast with Scorpions,” by the way. In it she calls Brewer a “down-to-earth mom committed to public service and principled leadership.” So Brewer is definitely a member of Ms. Palin’s "mama grizzly" club. Also, Brewer herself in the book calls New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie “incomparable,” so maybe she’s one of those conservatives who is still hoping he jumps into the presidential race.
Anyway, jealous authors of books critical of Obama policies are already pleading online with the White House to pass along a copy to the president, so he’ll get peeved and argue in public with them, too. Next stop: Swiss bank account!
As to the letter Brewer handed Mr. Obama, which was the MacGuffin that got the tiff started, the Arizona governor belatedly decided to release its contents. It’s not exactly combative, in terms of political rhetoric: “We both love this great country, but we fundamentally disagree on how to best make America grow and prosper once again,” Brewer wrote.
As for Obama himself, he told ABC News Thursday that the incident was “a classic example of things getting blown out of proportion.” After reporters peppered him with questions on the subject, White House spokesman Jan Carney went further, saying, “I really assume you guys have more important issues to cover than this.”
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Surely, the question from the anchor of a Spanish-language network to Mitt Romney was at least partly tongue-in-cheek:
Considering that Mr. Romney's father was born in Mexico, would that allow the candidate to claim a Mexican-American heritage and dub himself the first Hispanic president, asked Jorge Ramos of Univision TV.
Predictably, Romney laughed it off.
“I would love to be able to convince people of that, particularly in a Florida primary,” where Cuban-American voters could play a decisive role, Romney said. “I think that might be disingenuous on my part.”
But the question was an interesting one, not least because it was asked by a Hispanic news outlet. True, the elder Romney, whose parents were missionaries, was not a Mexican citizen and left Mexico at age 5. Romney the candidate doesn't even speak Spanish.
His son does, however – and fluently, having spent time in Chile as a Mormon missionary. He has even narrated Spanish-language ads for his father and addressed crowds by his dad’s side on the campaign trail in Florida. And the Romney clan does have that connection to their patriarch's birthplace in Chihuahua, Mexico.
So does it amount to anything at all for Romney and the Latino vote?
“Absolutely,” says Charles Dunn, author of “The Presidency in the 21st Century.”
If a candidate has a connection to another people and culture, he says, “he should use it to the greatest effect,” and Romney's background means he has a story to tell.
Americans love a story well told, he notes, “and this is the tale of his own father’s beginning and his love for the Mexican people and their culture.”
Other presidents have used family connections to their benefit, notably John F. Kennedy though his wife. “He made the effort to speak German, and his own wife, Jackie, spoke French, which was a great plus for him,” he says. “Romney’s story will play well in certain parts of the country.”
But a worldly display can cut both ways. Just look at the recent swipe by the Newt Gingrich campaign at Romney for speaking French, says Jim Broussard, professor of political science at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa.
Similarly, most analysts agree that the decision by John Huntsman Jr. to speak Mandarin during a debate did not help him, because as one blogger noted, it made him seem somehow “un-American.”
Playing to Latinos could also be a problem, particularly for Republicans, since it often leads to the issue of illegal immigration. In hard economic times, “immigrants become a popular scapegoat,” portrayed as taking away scarce American jobs, says Catherine Wilson, a political scientist at Villanova University in Philadelphia.
This makes the question of whether to create a video clip in another language tricky, she adds.
But Latinos are an integral part of the American culture and political landscape, and some will be open to Romney's candidacy, says Steffen Schmidt, a political scientist at Iowa State University and a political commentator for CNN Español.
In the end, Latinos will “probably make their decision on electability as much as anything else,” he says.
Given that, it doesn’t hurt for Romney to play every card he has. “All he has to say is that his father was born in Mexico,” he says. “That’s pretty good right there. What it says to Hispanics is that he may be more sensitive to their issues because of that.”
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Stephen Colbert’s super PAC – or rather, the super PAC Stephen Colbert used to control – is being held hostage by Jon Stewart, in case you haven’t heard. It’s now day three of this national crisis. Will Mr. Colbert ever get his money back from its “evil stepfather”?
“Don’t hurt my $ Jon!” Colbert tweeted on Wednesday morning. “It has sentimental value, and even more monetary value!”
Yes, yes, we think Colbert will regain his cash. But first, let’s back up and explain what’s happening for those of you who are just tuning in.
Last year the “Colbert Report” host formed his own super political-action committee in order to satirize how unlimited bucks now flow into the political system. In particular, he’s taken aim at the semi-fiction that candidates don’t coordinate with super PACs that support them. (All a candidate has to do is go on “Fox and Friends” and announce to the world what he wants his own friends to do. Super PAC officials can listen to that like everybody else.)
Then Colbert decided to explore running for president of South Carolina, after an actual poll showed him getting the support of 5 percent of Palmetto State GOP voters. He had to give up control of his super PAC to maintain the façade of non-coordination. He gave the keys to Mr. Stewart, in a handshake ceremony that had green light and spooky music. As we’ve said before, they looked like Severus Snape and Narcissa Malfoy doing the Unbreakable Vow in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
But Colbert’s exploration cratered. He couldn’t get on the ballot in South Carolina, and there are no write-ins, so he urged South Carolinians to vote for Herman Cain, since Cain has dropped out but his name remained on the ballot. (OK, when we put it that way, it sounds like a steampunk version of a Dickens plot, doesn’t it? All it needs is a plucky orphan and a lame dog.)
How did that go? Not well.
“I urged South Carolinians to vote for me by voting for Herman Cain. And when all the votes were counted, we came in number one ... percent,” said Colbert on his show Monday. “Eat it, others, and statistical anomalies! We made it to integers.”
So Colbert ended his exploration, and asked Stewart to return his super PAC. Stewart refused. A video clip showed the “Daily Show” host flying away in a PAC-financed blimp, cackling.
Colbert has pretended to be distraught ever since.
“I just cannot imagine how scared my money must be right now. Nation, won’t you comfort my money by sending it more of itself?” he said Tuesday.
But we think he’ll get his cash back. We have two reasons: one practical, one comedic.
The practical reason is that future control of the super PAC depends on what its bylaws say. Colbert’s lawyer is Trevor Potter, a former head of the Federal Election Commission, so these by-laws are probably sophisticated. Perhaps the board of directors consists of ... Potter himself! Or something like that. No good lawyer would have let Colbert cede control of all that moolah without building in some way to reel it back.
The comedic reason is that it’s funnier if Colbert gets the money back, eventually, after a struggle that may involve faux zeppelin combat, or perhaps a staged rescue by Navy SEALs.
Colbert’s main satiric point is that candidates really do exert a soft form of control over super PACs. That message would be served by Colbert regaining the super PAC reigns. If Stewart keeps the cash, it will make it look like these things actually have a modicum of independence. Got that?
We await hostage crisis, day four.
In case the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address doesn’t satisfy your political appetite, there will be two – count ‘em, two – additional followups on Tuesday night: one from the tea party and another from the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“Our voices are not being represented by either the Republicans or Democrats,” says spokesman Shawn Callahan. "Last year, [US Rep.] Michele Bachmann did a good job for us, so this year we decided that Herman Cain would be a good fit.”
The pizza magnate, who coined the term "9-9-9" to market his tax reform policy, will listen to the president’s speech, then pen his own remarks, says Mr. Callahan. But “we do expect him to speak to the fiscal issues that the Tea Party Express stands for,” he adds.
Last year, C-SPAN covered the tea party event live. Fox News did cut-aways between Congresswoman Bachnmann's remarks and its "The Sean Hannity Show." “You never know for sure who will show up to cover your event,” he says, “but NBC has said it will send a camera over, and some radio stations have said they will send people over.”
Mr. Cain's rebuttal will stream live on the group’s website, teapartyexpress.org.
After that, folks from the weather-hardy Occupy Wall Street movement will assemble in a well-lit spot in Washington’s McPherson Square to deliver comments on the “state of the 99 percent.” Their delivery will be via “people’s mikes,” with one group reading a statement that is then repeated and amplified by the next group. This action will cycle throughout the entire crowd until the statement is complete.
By then, it may well be the hour for late-night television, says presidential scholar Charles Dunn, author of “The Seven Laws of Presidential Leadership,” who wonders who will actually be listening. “I follow these speeches, and I can’t imagine that I will stay with it through four separate speeches,” he says with a laugh.
Republican strategist David Johnson, who worked on Sen. Robert Dole’s 1988 presidential campaign, says this proliferation of public responses to the president’s annual speech spotlights the splintering of America's body politic.
“The two major parties used to be able to contain all these alternative voices within themselves,” he says. “That is no longer the case, and we are seeing more and more people who feel the need to make their own statement.” Beyond that, he says, this also underlines the role of social media in empowering disparate points of view.
But history shows that even when groups begin to polarize, the main political parties have been able to absorb their disparate points of view, says Mr. Dunn. He points to 1968, when George Wallace made a third-party presidential run, but Republican candidate Richard Nixon was able to pick up on the grievances that Wallace represented and fold them into the larger Republican platform, resoundingly crushing Wallace's third-party bid.
“This kind of political splintering runs in cycles in our history,” he says. The disaffected groups usually find ways to rejoin the larger umbrella of the two-party system, he says.
Glenn Beck doesn’t support Newt Gingrich. Let’s get that clear right from the start. The conservative former Fox News host considers the former House speaker a “progressive “ – yes, that’s the word Mr. Beck used today in a segment of his online GBTV show. He’s also critical of Mr. Gingrich’s marital history, and his work as a consultant for government mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
But the candidates Beck has been boosting haven’t been doing so well, according to him. He liked Michele Bachmann, and said so on air, and look how that turned out. She peaked at the Ames, Iowa straw poll, and after that it was a long slide downhill.
“Whatever we say politically, you’ll do the opposite,” Beck said Monday on GBTV. (It wasn’t clear who he meant by “you.” Perhaps he was referring to GOP primary voters in general.)
So for Beck, the next move is obvious. He sarcastically endorsed Newt this morning on his show.
“Now we’re coming clean,” Beck said. “We not only recommend, we wholeheartedly endorse Newt Gingrich.”
Beck and his supporting cast then went on to compare a notional 2012 Gingrich-Obama election to 1984, which featured GOP icon Ronald Reagan versus ex-VP Walter Mondale. Only in Beck’s estimation, if Gingrich does win the nomination, he’ll be playing the role of Mr. Mondale, who won only the District of Columbia and his home state of Minnesota.
“I think some might say that Newt Gingrich wouldn’t even win his home state of Georgia,” said Beck.
As to Gingrich’s triumph in South Carolina, Beck congratulated Palmetto State GOP voters.
“South Carolina, that’s maybe the best move you’ve made since Lindsey Graham,” Beck said.
That’s Lindsey Graham, as in the Republican Senator from South Carolina. You got it – Beck isn’t too fond of him, either.
Watch this video below on key issues on the minds of social conservative or values voters in South Carolina.
Stephen Colbert’s exploration of a possible run for the president of South Carolina really takes off Friday. He’s down in the Palmetto State for a rally at the College of Charleston, where he will appear in some manner with Herman Cain. In recent days, Mr. Colbert has been urging South Carolinians to vote for Mr. Cain as a proxy for himself, since it’s too late for him (Colbert) to get on the ballot.
It’s been, what, a week now since Colbert launched this comedic stunt? So, it’s not too early to ask the obvious question: How’s he doing in the polls?
Just fine, thank you. Stephen Colbert is doing better than any other fictional character who is thinking about the race. (Yes, Harry Potter has a higher positive intensity score, but he’s British, and Britain's possible respondents were confunded.)
Seriously, though, if seriousness is possible here, Colbert has been included in some actual political surveys in recent days. A new nationwide Public Policy Polling poll finds he has a higher favorability rating than any actual GOP candidate.
Digging into the PPP results, the numbers seem to show that if Colbert decided on a third-party run (OK, we’re just going along with the jokiness here) he would hurt the incumbent more than the GOP nominee. The majority of his supporters are self-identified Democrats, and PPP has Mr. Obama in the lead on a straight-up race with Romney, 49 percent to 44 percent.
Colbert’s former "super PAC," now run by fellow comedian/evil mastermind Jon Stewart, has also commissioned an actual poll from an actual pollster, the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. In this survey, 18 percent of South Carolina voters say they would be at least “kinda’ somewhat likely” to vote for Colbert, if they could. Among voters who say they are aware of his whole exploratory committee thing, 22 percent say they might vote for him.
“There’s no doubt Stephen Colbert’s potential run for the presidency of the United States of South Carolina is being noticed,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, in a press release.
Meanwhile, not everyone sees Colbert’s meddling with the electoral process as funny and/or a good way to publicize the problems inherent in the current political finance system.
“Yes, the process is a mess, but he’s doing it in a way that feels like he’s trying to influence it with his own agenda and that may be anti-Republican,” said Mr. Todd, according to an account of the incident on the Huffington Post.
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As the Newt Gingrich campaign confronts uncomfortable revelations from the candidate's second wife, Marianne Gingrich, that he asked her for “an open marriage” – charges that will air Thursday night on ABC’s "Nightline" – questions are also surfacing about about the network’s motivations for broadcasting it now.
Does ABC have it in for Mr. Gingrich? Is the show timed to hurt his prospects, which have been rising, in Saturday's South Carolina primary? Why dredge up now something that happened 10 years ago?
The full interview won’t run until after the CNN-sponsored GOP presidential debate Thursday evening, but clips of it have gone viral on the Internet, and reporter Brian Ross appeared on ABC’s “The View” to discuss the potential effect of Mrs. Gingrich's interview. “She spoke in measured tones,” he said, attempting to play down what co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck introduced as “bombshell” allegations." He also noted that the final impact is “for the voters to decide.”
Defending the network’s decision to broadcast the interview two days before the South Carolina primary, Mr. Ross noted that ABC has been scrutinizing all the candidates, pointing to its reports Wednesday night on Mitt Romney’s possible tax evasions. Beyond that, he said the interview took place on Friday. ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider says "Nightline" “reached out to the Gingrich campaign” for a response. The candidate has declined to comment on the allegation.
“This is one of the toughest decisions news executives and producers face,” says former ABC News producer John Goodman, via e-mail. “You have a story that can impact a political campaign. Do you go with it, or sit on it?” he says. “The journalist in you says you have to air it. But you clearly understand that by doing so, you create a PR nightmare.”
The fact that most of Mrs. Gingrich's comments are “old news,” and that the South Carolina primary is days away, feeds the “suspicion by the average American that ABC has a liberal bias and can’t wait to air the story to destroy Gingrich’s presidential hopes,” Mr. Goodman says. In obtaining the interview, he adds, ABC must ask itself this question: Does she have a vendetta to destroy her ex-husband? “There’s no clean-cut, no-brainer, right-or-wrong answer,” he says. "You just have to do what you feel is the right decision.”
ABC is not Marianne Gingrich's only recent brush with the media. The Washington Post published an interview with her on Thursday, in which she said she was speaking out for the first time because she “wanted her story told from her point of view, rather than be depicted as the victim or suffer a whisper campaign by supporters of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid.” At the same time, according to a CBS spokesman, “ '60 Minutes' passed on this one.”
Withholding a story is justified only on the rarest of occasions, says Lee Kamlet, dean of the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., and a former ABC News producer. It might be justified if national security is threatened, or if a person's life could be put in danger. “Neither is the case here,” he says, via e-mail.
The standard should be simple: “If it's news, it should be broadcast, regardless of the timing," he says. "The voters can decide its relevance to their decision.”
An internal debate over a story’s potential impact on the campaign is a no-win proposition, adds Mr. Kamlet. “If ABC News decided to hold the story until after the South Carolina primary, they would be just as susceptible to speculation and criticism that they withheld it in order to avoid embarrassing Newt Gingrich,” he says. Moreover, the candidate himself has made his marriages public fodder, he notes.
“He has spoken about them and addressed the question in at least one nationally televised debate. Once the candidate puts a personal subject like that out before the public, he has made it fair game for reporting by any news organization,” he says.
However, this does not suspend obligations for careful reporting, says Len Shyles, a communication professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. It is critically important, he says, for the media not to “sully another person with the rants of a disgruntled former associate.”
But if information can be validated and confirmed, “it should be shared immediately," he says. "Then let the chips fall where they may.” A former spouse raises unique challenges concerning corroboration, but that still does not remove the necessity for it. “It comes down to the need for evidence,” he says. Without that, there is no proof, and “it should be passed over in silence.”
The history of such personal revelations amid a primary season suggests that the public would like to be the final arbiter. Revelations about Bill Clinton’s relationship with Gennifer Flowers became a major campaign issue, yet "he was ultimately elected," says Karen Curry, a Drexel University professor and former NBC News bureau chief. The key, she says, is for the candidate to step up and take the heat immediately. Gingrich is in a good position to do so, she says, adding that he has already introduced the notion of being a changed man, regretful about past mistakes.
“The redemption narrative plays very well in American politics,” she says. But “the candidate has to step up right away or it will appear something is being hidden.”
IN PICTURES: South Carolina primary
Why is Stephen Colbert’s former Super PAC attacking Stephen Colbert?
Yes, we know that sounds contradictory, but that’s what appears to be going on. The “Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC,” now headed by Mr. Colbert’s friend and business partner Jon Stewart, has just released an ad that appears to bite the hand of the person who formally fed it.
The ad, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, starts out by saying, “America is in crisis, and Stephen Colbert is turning our election into a circus”. Then it goes all reverse negative, like it’s a political attack ad from the ‘90s.
“And come on, why is the ‘T’ in his name silent? What else is he silent about? Letting murderers out of jail?” continues Jackson, in his best danger-to-the-republic voice.
What’s going on here? We say the super PAC remains on message – it’s not attacking Colbert, it’s continuing to satirize the tissue-thin separation between candidates and the super PACs that support them.
See, it’s a reverse flip – the group is attacking Colbert in order to pretend to distract viewers from the fact that its staff used to work for him, still works for his exploratory committee, and generally is trying to help him.
Maybe a quote will make this clearer. As Jackson says sneeringly of Colbert in the ad in question, “Now a super PAC that he founded is running attack ads against him just so they’ll think they’re not coordinating!”
The ad ends by urging South Carolina voters to send Colbert a message by voting for Herman Cain. See, that’s what Colbert really wants – he’s hijacked Cain’s name, which remains on the South Carolina ballot despite the fact that the former pizza executive has dropped out of the race. It’s too late for Colbert himself to get on the ballot, so he’s said that a vote for Mr. Cain is really a vote for him.
“A vote for Herman Cain would be a strong message to me that voters want me to run,” said Colbert on his Wednesday show.
The coordination thing is the legal loophole that Colbert is really targeting in his faux possible residential run. That’s why he showed up on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” on Tuesday when Stewart said he was nervous about what to do, and gave nods and winks as Stewart outlined where was thinking of buying air time for super PAC ads.
On a related note, Colbert’s fake candidacy appears to be sweeping through the Palmetto State with the force of a light drizzle. He appeared before a meeting of South Carolina moms via video conference, and they clearly were less than enthusiastic, with few applauding when asked if they wanted him to run.
A new Public Policy Polling survey gives him the highest national favorability ratings of anybody left in the GOP race, with 36 percent of voters having a positive view of the latish-night comedian. [Editor's note: The original version misstated the findings of the PPP poll.]
“Thirty-six percent, that’s more than half!” said Colbert on his Wednesday show.
Jon Stewart does not want to go to jail. This is understandable – the bagels in prison aren’t fresh, and Wi-Fi access is extremely limited.
So – as he explained on Tuesday night’s show – he is worried about his new position as head of Stephen Colbert’s super political-action committee. He’s happy with the money, of course, and the power, and so on. He’s thinking of buying himself one of Elizabeth Taylor’s tiaras. (We’re not making this up.) But he heard Mitt Romney say on “Morning Joe” that he (Mitt) can’t coordinate with his own super PAC or he’ll go the “big house.”
“Which of your big houses do you go to? The beach house or the ski chalet?” asked Mr. Stewart, before mugging it up in mock horror at finally getting Mr. Romney’s joke.
“I don’t want to go to jail! I need guidance! Stephen!” said Stewart. Then Mr. Colbert himself walked out on stage and the audience exploded in glee.
Let’s back up for second here, shall we? For some time, Colbert has had a super PAC, a new kind of political money machine that’s allowed to accept unlimited amounts of money from private donors, and spend it on ads, or whatever, in support of its favorite candidates.
The only catch is that candidates themselves can’t run super PACs. If they did, donations would subject to low Federal Election Committee limits. And Colbert is now exploring the possibility of running for president of South Carolina. So he’s turned his super PAC over to Stewart. It’s now called the “Definitely not coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC.”
The point they’re making is that the line here is tissue-thin. The law says candidates cannot “coordinate” with super PACs. That means they cannot request, assent to, or suggest any super PAC activities.
But there is a loophole, or, as Colbert called it, a “loop-chasm.” A candidate can talk to his associated super PAC via the media. And the super PAC can listen, like everybody else.
“I can’t tell you [what to do]. But I can tell everyone through television,” said Colbert on Stewart’s Comedy Central Show. “And if you happen to be watching, I can’t prevent that.”
Stewart then played a clip of Newt Gingrich calling on his super PAC to scrub ads attacking Mitt Romney for possible inaccuracies.
Stewart and Colbert then talked to elections lawyer Trevor Potter – who is the attorney for both Colbert’s exploratory committee and the super PAC – through the same phone. Stewart said he’d bought air time in South Carolina, and so on, and Colbert just said he couldn’t coordinate, but smiled or frowned, depending on which city the ad time was in. Columbia, no. Charleston, yes!
Is this all legal, or are these comedians pushing the legal envelope and in fact risking jail time?
Nope, amazing as it sounds, they’re doing everything right. Election law expert Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine, on his blog linked to clips from the show, and posted but one additional word: “hilarious.”
So which of the GOP candidates stand to benefit most from super PAC money? So far the Romney-friendly “Restore Our Future” super PAC has spent about $7.8 million on ads and other pro-Romney activities, according to an analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics.
“That’s far more than any other super PAC involved in the 2012 GOP presidential primaries,” wrote analyst Michael Beckel on the group’s “Open Secrets” blog.
The pro-Gingrich “Winning Our Future” has spent about $4.2 million so far. Groups associated with the other candidates have all spent much less, according to CRP.
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