Stephen Colbert

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Editorials: How to Finish What Stephen Colbert Started | Trevor Potter/Politico

“Colbert Super PAC” exposed the troubling realities of money in politics more effectively than any PSA. But the crippling flaws in our campaign finance system that it was created to highlight have not abated in the years since—in fact, they’ve worsened substantially. The massive $144 million that Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls collectively raised in the third quarter of this year doesn’t include the untold millions funneled into their super PACs by deep-pocketed donors. When those numbers are disclosed in January, they will undoubtedly reveal that the money flowing to shifty outside groups is larger than ever. That is not even to count the funds being raised and spent in this election by candidate-allied nonprofit organizations, whose finances we will see, only in part, after the election is over. A little over a year after the Supreme Court’s infamous decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, I appeared on national television to walk Stephen Colbert through the legal intricacies of establishing his super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and his dark money 501(c)(4), Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Shhh. Though my appearances on his show were no more than a few minutes each, during our discussions Stephen demonstrated his uncanny ability to take a complex, nuanced problem and distill it down to the absurd facts at its core. For example, one particularly memorable exchange from my first appearance came after I reminded him of the applicable regulations if he chose to form a PAC.

Full Article: Campaign Finance Reform: How to Finish What Stephen Colbert Started - POLITICO Magazine.

Editorials: Here’s what I learned when I helped Stephen Colbert set up his Super PAC | Trevor Potter/The Washington Post

It’s been five years since the Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United decision. The ruling gave rise to a complicated mess of super PACs, dark money, and “coordinated non-coordinated expenditures” — a world that likely surprised even the Supreme Court. Viewers of Stephen Colbert’s late lamented “Colbert Report,” however, knew just how tricky this new world had become. In 2011, Colbert formed his own Super PAC. And he reported on the process every step of the way, explaining to viewers how the wacky post-Citizens United world worked (or, perhaps, didn’t work). I was his lawyer for the venture, which meant I did everything from drafting a Federal Election Commission Advisory Opinion Request to accompanying Colbert to hearings. I even figured out how to make the money “disappear” from public view when the PAC was closing. (Hint: It’s not that hard.)

Full Article: Here’s what I learned when I helped Stephen Colbert set up his Super PAC - The Washington Post.

Montana: GOP Congressional Candidate Using Campaign Money Scheme Pioneered by…Stephen Colbert | Mother Jones

Ryan Zinke, a Republican running for Congress in Montana, is using a novel scheme to bankroll his congressional campaign—one that originated with Stephen Colbert. In January 2012, Colbert summoned Daily Show host Jon Stewart and Trevor Potter, a campaign finance expert, to the Colbert Report studio for a surprise announcement: Colbert was handing control of his super-PAC—a political action committee that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on political races—to Stewart. The two comedians signed a two-page document, then held hands and locked eyes while Potter bellowed the words, “Colbert super-PAC transfer, activate!” Colbert then announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to weigh a run for “President of the United States of South Carolina.” Stewart, meanwhile, renamed Colbert’s super-PAC the Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC, and promised Colbert he would run ads to support Colbert’s presidential bid. The point of Colbert and Stewart’s comedy bit was to demonstrate that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision had rendered campaign finance law remarkably flimsy—so weak that it was legal for a person to start a super-PAC, raise unlimited heaps of cash from big-money donors for that super-PAC, quit the super-PAC, and then run for federal office supported by that super-PAC. Here was an easy way to escape the $2,500 limit on what individuals may give to federal candidates.

Full Article: GOP Congressional Candidate Using Campaign Money Scheme Pioneered by…Stephen Colbert | Mother Jones.

South Carolina: Justice Department to monitor South Carolina congressional election | Reuters

The Justice Department will monitor voting in Charleston County, South Carolina, in Tuesday’s special election to fill a House of Representatives seat, the department said on Monday. Former South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford is facing Democratic newcomer Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of television political satirist Stephen Colbert, in the First District House race. The Justice Department said in a statement it was monitoring the election under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law bars election discrimination on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group.

Full Article: Justice Department to monitor South Carolina congressional election | Reuters.

South Carolina: Stephen Colbert endorses sister Elizabeth Colbert Busch: Do campaign finance laws apply? | Slate Magazine

As the faux-conservative Colbert Report host, Stephen Colbert has lampooned campaign finance laws and the U.S. electoral system by starting his own super PAC and announcing bids for the presidency and “the president of the United States of South Carolina.” But another Colbert—this one with a hard t at the end—is also vying for the political spotlight: Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Stephen’s older sister, who’s facing off against avid Appalachian Trail hiker and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in a May 7 special election for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Colbert has twice devoted show segments to his sister’s campaign, including one endorsing her candidacy, and has mocked Sanford on countless occasions. With the show’s nightly viewership of 1.5 million and the documented “Colbert bump” in a politician’s support after an appearance, is Colbert violating election laws by blending his hosting role with his sister’s campaign?

Full Article: Stephen Colbert endorses sister Elizabeth Colbert Busch: Do campaign finance laws apply? - Slate Magazine.

Editorials: The Reformers Strike Back! | Mother Jones

Since the mid-2000s, a small cadre of lawyers and activists has reshaped the role of money in American politics. Led by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), attorney James Bopp, Jr., and law professor and activist Brad Smith, this group has won a string of victories that have imploded campaign finance laws. Citizens United? That was Bopp. Super-PACs? Thank Smith’s Center for Competitive Politics. The 2010 and 2012 DISCLOSE Act filibusters? All McConnell. But it’s been rough going for the deregulators as of late. They’ve lost a slew of cases intended to gut existing political disclosure laws. They’ve failed to knock down bans on contribution limits. And despite their objections, the Internal Revenue Service has said it might revisit how it regulates dark-money nonprofit groups, which outspent super-PACs 3-to-2 in the 2010 elections and unloaded at least $172 million through June of this election cycle. “The free speech crew’s winning streak has hit a bump in the road,” says Neil Reiff, an election law attorney who used to work for the Democratic National Committee.

Full Article: The Reformers Strike Back! | Mother Jones.

National: Super PAC Mania | Columbia Law School Magazine

The Supreme Court does not often become a foil for late-night television comedians, and the nation’s complicated campaign finance laws are an unlikely source for comedy. But there was Stephen Colbert on a recent episode of The Colbert Report opening with a mini-seminar. “Folks, it seems like these days, everyone is talking about super PACs, which, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, can collect and spend unlimited money on political advertising,” Colbert told his viewers, some of whom had already contributed to his own super PAC creation: Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

Full Article: Super PAC Mania | Columbia Law School Magazine.

National: Stephen Colbert spawns army of crazy super PACs | CNN

In late March, Stephen Colbert expanded his super PAC experiment, admonishing his late-night viewers to start organizations of their own on college campuses across America. They listened, and now the Federal Election Commission’s roster of approved super PACs is filled with groups registered to addresses in college towns. Danny Ben-David, a freshman at MIT, was one of the first to get in on the craze, after winning approval for his Why Not ZoidPAC? in March. “I was just sitting in my dorm room one night and said ‘oh hell, why not?’ It was almost frustratingly easy,” Ben-David said.

Full Article: Stephen Colbert spawns army of crazy super PACs - May. 21, 2012.

National: Stephen Colbert spawns army of crazy super PACs | CNN

In late March, Stephen Colbert expanded his super PAC experiment, admonishing his late-night viewers to start organizations of their own on college campuses across America. They listened, and now the Federal Election Commission’s roster of approved super PACs is filled with groups registered to addresses in college towns. Danny Ben-David, a freshman at MIT, was one of the first to get in on the craze, after winning approval for his Why Not ZoidPAC? in March. “I was just sitting in my dorm room one night and said ‘oh hell, why not?’ It was almost frustratingly easy,” Ben-David said.

Full Article: Stephen Colbert spawns army of crazy super PACs - May. 21, 2012.

Editorials: Five myths about super PACs | Trevor Potter/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United allowed them. Political candidates rely on them. And Stephen Colbert parodies them. But as a former chair of the Federal Election Commission and the lawyer behind Colbert’s super PAC — Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow — I find that most people don’t understand the role that these largely unaccountable organizations play in American politics. As the GOP primary race draws to a close, let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about groups powerful enough to evade traditional limits with a single bound.

1. Super PACs are transparent because they are required to report the names of donors.

Under federal law, political action committees must report the names of their donors. And under the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, corporations are permitted to spend money on political speech. So super PACs — allegedly independent political action committees that can collect unlimited cash — regularly disclose corporate contributors. But transparency can be a bit blurry at times. In 2011, the Mitt Romney-linked Restore our Future super PAC reported a $1 million contribution from “W Spann LLC.” Never heard of it? Neither had several enterprising reporters, who learned that its address in New York was the same as that of Bain Capital — Romney’s former firm. After the press demanded to know what Romney was hiding, a former Bain executive came forward to say that the donation was his. He had given it through a shell corporation that his lawyer had created for that purpose. How often does this happen? What if W Spann had been funded by another corporation or a foreign national — one whose lawyers had been a little less obvious when picking an address? Disclosure isn’t the same as transparency.

Full Article: Five myths about super PACs - The Washington Post.

Voting Blogs: The DISCLOSE Act and the Non-Profit Campaign Finance Loophole | Legislation & Policy Brief Blog

Thanks in no small part to the efforts of comedian Stephen Colbert, the issues around Super PACs and the campaign finance regime in this country have been elevated in the national consciousness. People following campaign finance are aware of the now famous 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), which held that corporate and union political speech, in the form of spending on independent and electioneering communications, is protected by the First Amendment. However, there is still considerable misunderstanding about how the system works and why corporate and union donations remain largely undisclosed. This post will attempt to briefly explain the main forces at work in keeping these donations in the shadows and the current most viable legislative fix, the Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections (DISCLOSE) Act of 2012 recently reintroduced in the House. Super PACs are among the hottest discussion topics this campaign season and are used as shorthand for the problem that ail our campaign finance system, but, in fact, the issues around Super PACs are not quite so simple. Super PACs emerged not directly from the Citizens United decision but from a subsequent DC Circuit court case called SpeechNow v. FEC. In that case, the court held that corporations and unions were permitted to make unlimited donations to support political committees making so-called independent expenditures – political spending not coordinated with a campaign. After that decision the FEC began permitting independent expenditure political action committees (IE-PACs) which were soon dubbed Super PACs.

Full Article: » The DISCLOSE Act and the Non-Profit Campaign Finance Loophole Legislation & Policy Brief Blog.

Voting Blogs: The Return of CREEP | ProPublica

With 300-plus super PACs and counting, it would be easy to miss CREEP. But last Thursday, a new super PAC ingeniously named the Committee for the Re-Election of the President registered with the Federal Election Commission. The committee is based out of a post office box at the Watergate Complex—an homage, of course, to the other Committee for the Re-Election of the President, the fundraising committee for President Richard Nixon that became embroiled in the Watergate scandal. It’s an inside joke with a serious punchline. The old CREEP (which used the acronym CRP and at one point was called the Committee to Re-Elect the President) helped spur the creation of the FEC. The website for CREEP Super PAC says it’s committed “to raising voices not dollars” and advocates disclosure. “It’s an excellent chance for people to step back and say, ‘Are we happy with 40 years of campaign finance and the lack of disclosure?’” said Robert Lucas, 22, founder of the new CREEP and a graduate student in public policy at Georgetown University. “There’s a lot of irony, with the 40th anniversary of Watergate and where we are now.”

Full Article: The Return of CREEP - ProPublica.

Florida: Are shark attacks more common than voter fraud in Florida? | PolitiFact Florida

On March 1, 2012, Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert moved in on Florida’s controversial new election law for a recurring segment, “People Who Are Destroying America.” The target: a Panhandle teacher named Dawn Quarles, who turned in 76 voter registration forms from her students beyond the state’s new 48-hour deadline. She could face a $1,000 fine. One of the people Colbert interviewed for his sarcastic report is Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Florida officials claimed they needed to pass the law to prevent voter fraud, but these cases are actually pretty rare, he said. “There are probably a larger number of shark attacks in Florida than there are cases of voter fraud,” he said. We couldn’t resist diving in: Are there more shark attacks than cases of voter fraud in Florida?

Full Article: PolitiFact Florida | Are shark attacks more common than voter fraud in Florida?.

National: Super PACs: Real life, or Comedy Central? | Kenneth P. Vogel/Politico.com

When it comes to super PACs, it’s getting hard to tell the difference between reality and a Comedy Central bit. Stephen Colbert made an ongoing gag last month out of lampooning the rules barring coordination between outside groups and campaigns. When he announced a plan to run for president, he made a big show of handing off his super PAC to his fellow Comedy Central host Jon Stewart. Stewart promised not to coordinate with Colbert — giving the camera a wink and a nod. But it was no joke last week when President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney cleared their top aides to raise cash for the super PACs supporting their campaign.

Full Article: Super PACs: Real life, or Comedy Central? - Kenneth P. Vogel - POLITICO.com.

Editorials: Foreign donations a risk in US presidential race | msnbc.com

Money pouring into the U.S. presidential election from new super political action committees and nonprofit campaign groups appears so far to be strictly American in origin, donated by U.S. companies, unions and millionaires. But it’s easier than ever to conceal the source of money and the identities of contributors, making conditions ripe for illegal donations from foreigners, overseas companies or governments attempting to help a favored candidate for the White House.

Full Article: Foreign donations a risk in US presidential race - US news - msnbc.com.

National: Stephen Colbert’s not-so-super super PAC | latimes.com

Reporting from Washington –— Determined not to be “the only chump” without a committee to collect “unlimited corporate money,” satirist Stephen Colbert went to the Federal Election Commission last summer to petition for permission to form his own “super PAC.” He won, and instantly started swiping credit cards as he delivered a knock-knock joke to the throng of fans who’d gathered to greet him.

“Knock knock?” Colbert said.
“Who’s there?” the crowd replied.
“Unlimited union and corporate campaign contributions.”
“Unlimited union and corporate campaign contributions who?”
“That’s the thing,” he said. “I don’t think I should have to tell you.”

Like all super PAC operators, Colbert, the host of Comedy Central’s late-night faux news show “The Colbert Report,” filed forms this week that disclosed the source of the nearly $1 million his super PAC raised last year. It turns out the vast majority of it would have been legal without the much-maligned Supreme Court ruling that prompted the creation of super PACs and has been the butt of Colbert’s jokes.

Full Article: Stephen Colberts not-so-super super PAC [Video] - latimes.com.

National: Colbert says super PACs are ‘publicly buying democracy’ | latimes.com

Stephen Colbert continued his one-man crusade against “super PACs” on Thursday night with an ironic salute to 22 of their biggest backers. Tuesday was the deadline for presidential super PACs to disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission, and the reports underscored the increasingly influential role of money in electoral politics. “To all the worrywarts out there who said that super PACs were going to lead to a cabal of billionaires secretly buying democracy: Wrong. They are publicly buying democracy,” Colbert (sort of) joked. As he explained, approximately half of all super PAC money — some $67 million dollars — came from just 22 donors.

Full Article: Late Night: Colbert says super PACs are 'publicly buying democracy' - latimes.com.

Massachusetts: Mutually Assured Super PAC Destruction In Massachusetts? | National Memo

In the Massachusetts Senate campaign, where Super PACs have already spent millions blanketing the airwaves in what promises to be a spectacular slugfest, the candidates are giving peace a chance. Or so they would have us believe. Scott Brown, the Republican incumbent, and Elizabeth Warren, the progressive consumer advocate who recently left the Obama administration to launch a political career, tentatively agreed Monday to reject outside spending by third-party groups, whether traditional political action committees (PACs), party organs like the Democratic National Committee, or Super PACs like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. Under the terms of the deal, hashed out in both private meetings between the campaigns and publicly-available letters, whenever a third-party group spends money to air an ad attacking (or supporting) a candidate, the potential beneficiary must donate half the sum of the ad buy to a charity of their opponent’s choice.

Full Article: Mutually Assured Super PAC Destruction In Massachusetts? | National Memo | Breaking News, Smart Politics.

South Carolina: Stephen Colbert, Herman Cain turn spotlight on super PACs in South Carolina | The Washington Post

Not everyone hooting Herman Cain at the Stephen Colbert rally here Friday was laughing with him. But he didn’t mind being the butt of jokes, he said, if only Americans could learn how to take one. His message? “As I said in one of the debates, America needs to lighten up.” Colbert’s message, on the other hand, was as serious as its delivery was lighthearted. Politicians in both parties promise to bring Americans together, but Colbert actually does, through comedy. And this rally on the campus of the College of Charleston, the day before the state’s presidential primary, was an extended riff on the serious subject of money in politics.

Full Article: Stephen Colbert, Herman Cain turn spotlight on super PACs in South Carolina - The Washington Post.

Editorials: ‘Super PACs’ dominate the political landscape | latimes.com

Trevor Potter is an unlikely repeat guest for a late-night comedy show. As the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, the courtly Washington lawyer is a leading expert on campaign finance law — not the kind of material that generates a lot of laughs. So the fact that he’s appeared seven times on “The Colbert Report” in the last year, helping host Stephen Colbert set up his own “super PAC” as part of a mischievous political parody, underscores an unexpected development in the 2012 presidential race: Super PACs have seized the zeitgeist.

Full Article: 'Super PACs' dominate the political landscape - latimes.com.