Vote for Colbert! You wish. The television comedian, popular among young audiences, raised over a million dollars for his GOP candidacy through his Super PAC: “Americans for a better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.” But the ludicrous fundraising was only intended to highlight a flaw in campaigning financing.
In late 2010, a Supreme Court decision — Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission — indicated that there would no longer be any limit to the amount of money that could be spent on electing a candidate. Candidates could raise enough to feed a small country in full accordance with the law as long as they were collected by organizations with “no ties” to the candidates they endorse. Colbert ultimately gave up his role in the Super PAC, leaving popular political satirist Jon Stewart in control. Since then, the organization has defined itself as the “Definitely not coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC.”
On February 1, candidates released funder’s names to the F.E.C.
Colbert said, “It’s a great day for transparency, because tomorrow, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida will finally have the vital information that would have been useful before they voted.”
Four years ago Colbert partnered with Doritos to launch a mock presidential bid, but this year the master of improvisation has made a considerable splash in the Republican primaries.
Joking aside, the Super PAC has had a real impact in the political arena. It aired its own Romney attack ad in South Carolina, and a New York Times columnist called Colbert a funny performer portraying a serious character.
Washington Post reporter Chris Cilliza blogged that Colbert’s name became a popular web search keyword nationally and in South Carolina following excitement surrounding his involvement in politics, and even statisticians have vouched for Colbert’s political appeal, having identified a so-called “Colbert Bump,” in which politicians benefit from appearing alongside the comedian.
In spite of some reported interest in a satirical Colbert candidacy, it seems Colbert supporters will be disappointed. He has already decided to axe his presidential exploratory committee, and if he decides to run for political office in the near future, he would likely have to alienate some of his fan base, as well as end his show, which enjoys strong ratings.
It appears that Colbert’s Super PAC is essentially a clever joke, imitating the hundreds of other organizations just like it shaping the 2012 Presidential election. Beyond the silly antics, and the media hoopla accompanying him, there are signs that what Colbert has actually done is offer a stern warning against the increasing role of money in politics.
“If corporations are people, then I’m a people person,” Colbert told his audience at a Herman Cain rally. ”I’m the Martin Luther King of corporate civil rights. I’m the Lockheed Martin Luther Burger King, you might say.”