If Stephen Colbert's announcement to explore a presidential run was one-part ratings ploy, it was at least two-parts civics lesson. On Thursday night's show, the Comedy Central host took the legal steps to ready his presidential bid by handing over control of his super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, to partner-in-comedy Jon Stewart, rechristening it The Definitely Not Coordinated with Stephen Colbert Super PAC. It could've been seen as a necessary plot detour to arrive at the climactic presidential announcement. But in fact, it was the crucial development in his ongoing scheme to lampoon our absurd post-Citizens United campaign finance rules.
Behold: the underlying civics lessons of Colbert's gonzo experiment:
The lie of super PAC independence
Enter Stewart, a Colbert crony. They joked to Potter that they were business partners in a joint bagel shop-cum-travel agency From Schmear to Eternity. Would the biz partners stop Stewart from taking over direction of the Colbert PAC? they asked [election attorney Trevor] Potter. The answer:
“Being business partners does not count as coordination, legally.” The business partners reacted giddily and signed a document effecting the transfer of the super PAC to Stewart. They called it, “The definitely-not-coordinating-with-Stephen-Colbert super PAC.” The show proved that serious journalism is no match for our campaign finance laws. Satire is the only way to appreciate them.
A source tracking ad buys in early primary states told ABC that the super PAC has purchased nearly $10,000 worth of time on a broadcast station in the Charleston, S.C. area between Jan. 15 and Jan. 19. And according to a South Carolina news web site, the Palmetto Public Record, the super PAC is also reportedly “negotiating a substantial media buy in the Columbia market.”
According to South Carolina election law, Colbert may not get his way. The state's website said write-in votes are prohibited in political party primaries or for president and vice president.
South Carolina Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire told CNN with the Republican presidential primary just nine days away, there "won't even be a way for someone to do that because it's not allowed under the law."
The comedian missed the November 1 filing deadline to get his name on the GOP primary ballot. Whitmire added that, in accordance with the law, there's no write-in space on the electronic and paper primary ballots.