Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert took his act to Washington on Friday, once again blurring the lines between his television persona as an ultra-conservative pundit and sincere political participation.
Colbert filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) today to ask for a "media exemption" to start a political action committee (PAC) that he could talk about on his television show without violating campaign finance laws. The move could be designed to simply parody the nation's convoluted campaign finance laws -- or to spur genuine support for reform.
Under normal PAC rules, corporations like Comedy Central's parent company, Viacom, are prohibited from donating money to PACs. If Colbert were to start a PAC, discussing it on his program would be considered a donation of air time from Viacom. However, under the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, corporations may spend unlimited funds on federal elections by donating to "super PACs."
On his show Wednesday, Colbert said he wanted to start the PAC so that "the Colbert Nation could have a voice, in the form of my voice, shouted through a megaphone made of cash" in the 2012 elections.
Still, Viacom expressed concern about Colbert's plan to start a "Super PAC," so the comedian is seeking a "media exemption," which is typically given to news outlets.
"I hate my parent company! They never let me do anything," Colbert said on his show Wednesday, in mock exasperation at Viacom's reservations. "Everyone else's parents companies let them do it. Karl Rove is a paid employee of Fox News, and he gets to talk about his Super PAC, American Crossroads, all the time."
The FEC has 60 days to rule on Colbert's request -- and their decision could have serious consequences for pundits like Rove, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee (all of whom appear on Fox News), campaign finance advocates told Politico.
Colbert has used his shtick for arguably serious causes in Washington before, such as when hebefore Congress in character on the issue of migrant labor. Last fall, he and Comedy Central's Jon Stewart drew huge crowds to the National Mall for a that some speculated would boost voter turnout among liberals.