The latest plot twist in Stephen Colbert's continuing civics lesson on campaign finance came last night: he announced that he would not run for president and demanded Jon Stewart give him back his super PAC but The Daily Show host refused. We asked a lawyer what's going on.
In a statement, Stewart wrote that the Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC "is a pile of money, sitting on top of a heap of cash, sitting on top of a mountain of moolah. And I'm going to spend it." So does Colbert have any legal avenues available to getting back his super PAC?
Brett Kappel, counsel at Washington law and lobbying firm Arent Fox told us, "It would depend on the PAC’s bylaws. The FEC doesn’t require PACs to have bylaws and even if they do they don’t have to disclose them to the FEC."
"I’m sure that Trevor Potter advised the PAC to have bylaws," he added, "but they may have unusual provisions – like deciding who gets to be on the board of directors by rock-paper-scissors rather than a vote of existing directors."
So the answer here may be that the latest inter-host dispute is less a lesson in the absurdity of post-Citizens United campaign finance and more of a little faux-rivalry between Colbert and Stewart (who, we may add, is Colbert's boss), which they've been known to do on-air from time to time. In any event, we're looking forward to another guest appearance from Colbert's "superstar campaign lawyer" Trevor Potter to flesh out the problems between Stewart and Colbert.
The fight between the Comedy Central hosts follows Saturday's South Carolina election in which Colbert-endorsed candidate Herman Cain was slaughtered at the polls garnering only 6,324 votes. Of course, that's only one way to look at it. Cain, though he appeared on the ballot, wasn't running and asked voters not to waste their vote on him. Despite that, he won 1 percent of the vote and beat the totals of Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann combined. As Colbert celebrated on show last night. "We came in number 1! .. percent."