The Comedy Central star will force the Federal Election Commission to answer serious questions about restrictions on independent campaign spending
The Federal Election Commission on Thursday will consider whether comedian Stephen Colbert can use a media giant's resources to promote his own independent expenditure-only political action committee. With Colbert slated to attend, the hearing has quickly turned into a Washington media circus.
But beneath the allure of a bona fide celebrity attending a sleepy FEC hearing lie deeper questions about the impact an FEC ruling could have on a law that exempts media organizations from campaign finance reporting requirements.
In March, Colbert broached the idea of creating a political action committee during his nightly show on Comedy Central. With the help of former FEC chairman Trevor Potter, the political satirist filed a request for an advisory opinion with the FEC in May. Colbert and his attorneys, including Potter, requested a press exemption from the commission to would allow Colbert Super PAC to use the resources of his parent company, Viacom, to create independent expenditure ads for the upcoming campaign cycle, without having to report Viacom's contributions as "in-kind."
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In filing the request, Colbert is seeking to take advantage of an exemption traditionally used to allow media outlets to report and comment on campaigns and endorse candidates without having their work considered "in-kind" political contributions, triggering filing and disclosure requirements with the Federal Election Commission.