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.