In his deepest dive yet into the intricacies of campaign finance law, Stephen Colbert blazed through a series of open-ended questions about super PACs last night, and even schooled at least one seasoned political reporter. The Comedy Central host's sketch was prompted by a simple question: What can he and super PAC conspirator Jon Stewart get away with without technically breaking the law? Here's what they came up with.
One-way coordination with super PACs The whole question of illegal campaign coordination between Stewart and Colbert was first raised by former Politico reporter and current BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith, who noticed this week that Colbert seemed to be illegally coordinating with his super PAC when he released his "Vote Cain" ad. Colbert highlighted Smith's line of questioning on his show:
"Stephen Colbert begins taping at around 7:30 p.m., and he detailed his 'Vote Cain' strategy ... on last night's show. Meanwhile, The Colbert Super PAC released a slick 60-second 'Vote Cain' ad before that Colbert Report episode even hit the air. How did both production-intensive video segments get made within hours of each other without illegal coordination?"
"To some in the media, this smells fishy," noted Colbert. In reality, what Colbert did was perfectly legal. Stewart simply told Colbert about the ad campaign ahead of time. And according to Colbert's trusty lawyer Trevor Potter, that's OK:
You see it's perfectly legal, according to former FEC chairman and my and Jon's lawyer Trevor Potter. Evidently, non-coordinating just means I can't help them or approve what they're doing. But I can know in advance know what they've done. That's not coordinating. That's just ... ordinating. Information can go one way but not the other. It's like a one-way membrane. Basically, a money placenta. I give him nothing and Jon nourishes me in a warm amniotic bath of strategy and cash until I slide out all wet and electable. All true, All true. We checked. Jon and I don't even need to be psychic.