Stephen Colbert visits the Federal Election Commission

The reports are coming in from Stephen’s trip to Washington, D.C., today to stop by the FEC and file papers to formally request an advisory opinion on the formation of Colbert Super PAC. Throughout the day, the Twitter feed had regular reminders for people to join him at 4 PM at the FEC building. Thanks to Zoner gentoo, who was present for the occasion and , we know that a crowd of about 150-175 people showed up, and sang “Happy Birthday” to him before he gave his statement. Big tip of the hat to another Zoner, Christiane, who pointed us toward this video from HuffPo posted on You Tube!

HuffPo also has a covering the event which includes a summary of Stephen’s efforts so far to form his PAC. More coverage can be found and the ABC News blog (h/t SW). Both of those articles have additional video, although they’re brief and the quality isn’t great.

Two more articles I came across do a great job of discussing Stephen’s purpose and the impact of his efforts to form Colbert SuperPAC. , the article explains how Stephen is exposing “some brand new and potentially devastating realities in campaign financing, something that most voters are not even bluehost aware of…because these new rules are as confusing and opaque and absurd as most deliberately cryptic money things usually are.” And this article at Politico has a good analysis of both the point Stephen is trying to make about campaign finance and the implications of any decision handed down by the FEC.

by Kenneth P. Vogel 5/13/11 4:02 PM EDTlive streaming movie Spider-Man: Homecoming

…[W]hen Colbert appeared at the Federal Election Commission in Washington Friday afternoon seeking permission to use his show to promote the PAC, the joke took on the contours of an actual political cause – exposing what he sees as the ridiculousness of the nation’s loophole-ridden system regulating money in politics.

. . .

Yet the stunt could have real – and potentially broad – implications in the world of campaign finance, not just for the comedian’s as-yet-unformed political committee “Colbert Super PAC.”

If nothing else, it could help the cause of campaign finance advocates by highlighting the ability of corporations to spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates, and – as Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen describes it – expose “the clear conflict of interest that Fox media has as they allow political figures to promote their PACs on a supposedly neutral media outlet.”

Democrats and advocates for stricter campaign finance rules hope “the Colbert bump” – the comedian’s term for popularity boosts he asserts politicians receive after they appear or are featured on his show – carries over to the Democratic push to blunt the impact of the Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. FEC.

. . .

If the six commissioners of the FEC take Colbert’s request seriously, and decides to grant him wide latitude in using “The Colbert Report” to promote his PAC – both very big ifs – it “could have a sweeping effect. That would be a troubling development,” said Paul Ryan, a lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit group that pushes for tighter restrictions on money in politics.

Likewise, said Gilbert, if the commission goes the other way, ruling that any airtime Colbert devotes to promoting the PAC should be treated, and disclosed, as a so-called in-kind contribution from Viacom, it could “have a real election law impact,” in part by restricting the freedom of a handful of high-profile Republicans who serve as paid Fox News pundits and are affiliated with PACs, including Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Karl Rove and Dick Morris.

If you’re having some difficulty getting your brain around these legal issues, as I am, that article will help make things much clearer. Also very helpful, and posted by HuffPo as a .pdf, is the submitted to the FEC today. The language in the document is very clear and understandable; I’d definitely recommend reading it. Of special note is this paragraph on the second page (emphasis mine):

Mr. Colbert now plans to form an actual federal independent expenditure-only committee named “Colbert Super PAC.” Colbert Super PAC will make only independent expenditures, advertisements that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate and that are not coordinated with any candidate or political party. Colbert Super PAC will also pay usual and normal administrative expenses, including but not limited to, luxury hotel stays, private jet travel, and PAC mementos from Saks Fifth Avenue and Nieman Marcus. It plans to maintain a website, on which it will discuss political events, solicit contributions, and offer opinions on political matters.

I do hope the FEC has a sense of humor!


  1. I am so proud to say he’s my hero! And just think, for once, election funds will go to a real comedian!

  2. The local NBC station had a bit about it on their news tonight and their crowd estimate was 300. They also have the full video of the event on their web site, great quality, which I’ll find a link to and post.

    Thanks for linking to that article. My brain shuts down whenever legal-ese is involved., but that explained it all nicely. Its going to be interesting to see what happens with all this.

  3. Karenatasha says:

    This simply one of the best pieces of political theater I have ever seen. Go Stephen! Go Colbert PAC!

    I can’t wait to see what will happen.

    And happy birthday (a little late NY time, but still…) to Stephen. May your birthday PAC come true.

  4. Christiane says:

    I wonder how ruffled the feathers are of the powers that be. :) I wonder what he’ll use the dollar bills he took for handshakes for. hehehe

  5. *smiles and nods approvingly* Yep. That’s our man. Our bold, brave and wonderful man (and, like SW, also my personal hero and inspiration). My mind is still a little blown away from reading all the articles and watching all the videos, but it’s a good kind of blown away. :) I also shut down when something legal is being explained, but I really appreciate how well-explained and -written all the articles are in helping me better understand all of this PAC business. Now that I know more, I am even more proud of Stephen for what he is trying to do, and no matter where this goes, I’m interested to see what the impact will be, whether small- or large-scale.

  6. colbaby says:

    I’m going to be so disappointed if this gets shut down prematurely like his presidential bid. He may be a comedian, but he should have every bit as much right to form a PAC as the clowns on FOX News. And frankly, whatever ads the Colbert Super PAC comes up with will probably contain more actual facts than the truthiness-filled garbage spouted by people like Karl Rove from his HoneyBaked ham of a head.

  7. Go Trevor Potter! That legal request mentions our “widely attended” Rally! Yeah!! And it’s awesome that crowd was full of it-getters. I feel bad for the people who also had a birthday gift bag and red flower for him, though.

  8. Gratefull says:

    Ewwwww, Stephen! Figuratively, figuratively!!! Don’t literally put money in your mouth, you don’t know here that has been!!!

  9. Armillariella says:

    Pat Paulson (kids ask your grandparents) would be so proud to see this day.

    • Oh, that is so true!

      You kids out there who have never seen Pat Paulsen should watch this video. As one of the comments on the YouTube says, this is Colbert years before Colbert.

      • Armillariella says:

        Oh, thank you for that link. What a trip down memory lane! All I can say is la plus ca change la plus c’est la meme chose. And also, those blazers Tom and **** were wearing? They weren’t being ironic.

        ReCAPTCHA: same wittatie

        See, even ReCAPTCHA is nostalgic for the good ol’ wittatie’s

        • colbaby says:

          Haha, how funny that D*ck’s name got censored.

          Thanks for that link, Ann. I’m in my mid twenties, but I was well aware of the Smothers Brothers growing up thanks to having awesome parents. So I was ashamed of myself that I had to google Pat Paulsen. I can see the similarities to Stephen, however I did find this disturbing factoid on his wikipedia page:

          “When asked if he believed in the right to bear arms: ‘No, I believe in the right to arm bears.'”

        • Hey! Another fellow mid-twenty-er! I know we don’t really disclose our ages here in NFZ, so sometimes I’m playing a constant guessing game on who’s what age based on subtle hints in posts. At least I now know I’m not the only one who’s lived a quarter of a century.

          I never knew about Pat so I had to do the whole Google/Wikipedia thing. Then I watched the video and he definitely had me chuckling with some of the stuff he said, although not to the same extent as Stephen. I will say that the parallels between what he did and what Stephen does are so perturbedly striking. But he seemed to be a very much-liked figure back in the day (based on how enthusiastically the crowd was reacting to him). I wonder what he would think of Stephen today if he were still alive.

        • I remember Pat Paulson and the Smothers Brothers too (even though I was around Kindergarten-age at the time, watching them in my footie pajamas), all three of whom were precursors to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I think they’d be pretty envious of the technology of today — this fan site for example — and the way a message can be relayed instantaneously. Imagine what they could have done with it! The Smothers Brothers were very interesting too… In a way, Stephen and “Stephen” are like the two Smothers Brothers. One is very genuine and smart, and the other “plays” a well intentioned dope. I think all of them, Paulson, and both “Brothers,” would be very, very proud of Stephen Colbert today! (And they would have wished for all that handsomeness too!) And while we’re at it, take a look at “Laugh In.” Back then, the few TV stations that existed were very reluctant to be as critical of politics and politicians as we are today, so the comedians and satirists had to find very clever ways of cushioning their politics with jokes that had meanings on multiple levels. And having seen all of those shows, may I say that I’m very glad I’m alive and well to see Stephen Colbert at the FEC, on video, and to be able to play it over and over again (as I will). He and Jon are the nadir of political satire as far as I’m concerned! So (attention 40+somethings) “sock it to me!”
          (Source of socking-it-to one: See Laugh In)

        • Armillariella says:

          I literally laughed out loud when I saw that I’d been autocensored for referring to Mr Smothers by his given name. Kids, ask your grandparents to explain exactly how ironic that is. La plus ca change….

        • I forgot to mention… about that wonderful video link… Isn’t is incredibly scary how the issues from 1967/68 have not changed ONE BIT?!? Those Pat Paulson jokes could be told today, because the issues haven’t changed one iota. It’s both sad and funny. (Mostly sad, I think.) And we were at war then, too. But, twenty-somethings, if you watch that Pat Paulson video, bear in mind that when you came home from college and wanted to get together with some of your high school friends, several of them were either in South East Asia, or dead. And they had no choice in the matter. And they weren’t being honored as heroes by someone like Stephen Colbert. So, some things change, but a lot of things, sadly, stay the same.
          To quote “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?,” a popular song of that era… “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn…”
          Oh. And God bless Stephen Colbert.

          (My Recaptcha? I swear: congress yalles)

        • It’s true that most of us “young’uns” can’t even begin to imagine what life was like back during that period (and this is coming from a non-American). In a sense we really are luckier today because of all the sacrifices that were made before us by complete strangers whom we’ll never know, or, as Stephen as “Stephen” called us when he was the featured comedian at the University of Rochester’s Meliora Weekend during my senior year, the “coddled generation”. So it’s definitely crucial to show interest and appreciation for the past and the people who shaped our present, since what is today was yesterday’s tomorrow. So though I never grew up with Smother’s Brothers and Pat Paulsen, I can see how they sowed the seeds of political satire for Stephen and Jon to reap when it came time for them to take their place in the sun, and for that I am grateful that, even for a short time, the political satire shows and hosts of yesterday existed and set the stage for the beloved pundits we know so well and love today.

    • Karenatasha says:

      Yea, Pat Paulsen! Yea, Smothers Brothers. And remember, they got kicked off the air for their political satire. Now, Stephen and Jon have the freedom to mouth off…and I’m glad of it.

      “Mom always liked you better!”

      And I’m NOT telling my age.

  10. jbirdNZ says:

    Great speech or greatest?


    Simply put, after watching that, he really does have no end to his awesomeness.

  11. Galadriel says:

    Any day I get to witness Stephen’s brilliant political shenanigans is a happy one indeed. Plus I get to say “shenanigans” twice in one paragraph, which is just Reddi-Wip on the Pringle.

    Recaptcha: Younddi Fet (second cousin once-removed to Boba Fett)

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