Colbert gets a Super PAC; So what are they?

Comedian Stephen Colbert, left, confers with his attorney Trevor Potter, as he testified before the Federal Election Commission in Washington, Thursday, June 30, 2011. Colbert, who plays a conservative TV pundit on "The Colbert Report," wants to launch Colbert Super PAC, a type of political action committee that would allow him to raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals to support or oppose candidates in the 2012 elections through independent expenditures such as TV ads.
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Comedy Central's fake newsman Stephen Colbert scored a very real victory in Washington today. He was granted permission by the Federal Election Commission to form his own Super PAC.

You may have never heard of Super PACs but they're no joke. And they're going to play a major role in the next election, as CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

At the staid FEC, whose hearings normally come and go with little notice, Stephen Colbert became the proud founder today of the nation's 114th "Super PAC."

"There are some who say what will you do with that money," Colbert joked to a crowd of fans. "I say give it to me and we'll find out!"

Colbert has been on this quasi-comedic campaign for several months, quipping on his show that "this election, you, the Colbert nation could have a voice, in the form of my voice, shouted through a megaphone of cash."

Super PACs are the byproduct of the 2010 Supreme Court decision commonly known as "Citizens United," which granted corporations, unions and individuals the right to donate unlimited funds to outside groups to campaign for or against candidates.

Within a year, conservative Super PACs had raised $35 million and liberal Super PACs $28 million to spend on the 2010 midterms.

"This is a toe in the water definitely," said Sheila Krumholz, who runs the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. "Corporations saw very little fallout for their election related activities and unlimited spending in 2010. And I think the gloves will be off in 2012."

Just last Friday, a former top aide to Mitt Romney formed three Super PACs called "Jobs for Florida," "Jobs for Iowa," and "Jobs for South Carolina" -- early voting states, all.

(graphic out)

But he'll have to move quickly if he wants to outraise Colbert, who left the hearing in an SUV joking "Is there any more cash? That's it, thank you! Ball it up and throw it to me!"

  • Nancy Cordes
    Nancy Cordes On Twitter»

    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.