Colbert: Seriously Funny

Stephen Colbert, whose faux news show channels a self-absorbed, slicked-down conservative host, is playing in the real world of Super PACs, raising and spending money without limit or disclosure.Faux news shows have become so prevalent that a lot of people actually depend on them for information, opinions and distortions. Conveniently, they also get a good laugh when they view shows such as The Colbert Report.

But as The New York Times Magazine noted in its weekend edition, Stephen Colbert is more than funny when it comes to pointing out the foibles of federal election laws; he is seriously funny.

Colbert, with the assistance of a former Federal Elections Commission chairman, has created what is known as a Super PAC and called it Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of "soft money" — money contributed directly by corporations or unions — to support or oppose candidates, as long as they don't coordinate with the benefitting campaigns. What coordination actually means isn't clearly spelled out.

Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow is more than a comedic parody, unlike Colbert's effort in the 2008 election to get on the ballot in South Carolina as a presidential candidate. His Super Pac is real. It has 170,000 names on its database, 30,000 of whom have contributed to the Super PAC. "This is 100 percent legal and at least 10 percent ethical," Colbert says.

The Super PAC has done such oddball things as stage a TV ad campaign in Iowa to cast caucus votes for Rick "Parry," a word play off the real name of real GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry.

Even stranger, Colbert's Super PAC pitched South Carolina Republicans on the idea of the naming rights of its primary election – "The Stephen Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Primary." Ha ha, you say. But South Carolina Republicans actually considered the $400,000 offer. The idea got sidetracked by a South Carolina court, but Democrats in the Palmetto State apparently considered a sweetened $500,000 proposal to appeal the rebuff to a higher court.

Writer Charles McGrath speculates that Colbert's ultimate purpose is to poke fun at election law run amok. 

Super PACs "can accept unlimited amounts of money from corporations without disclosing their names and can then give that money to a regular PAC, which would otherwise be required to report corporate donations," McGrath reported. "'What's the difference between that and money laundering?' Colbert asks."

Trevor Potter, affectionately known as T. Potts, is a Washington attorney and former FEC chair who has assisted Colbert set up and manage Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Of Colbert's motives, Potts told McGrath, "I don't know what he's thinking. He can find the laws ironic or funny or absurd. But he's illustrating how the system works by using it. By starting a Super PAC, he can bring the audience inside the system. He can show them how it works and then leave them to decide whether this is how it ought to work."

Colbert says he just wants to be funny. But when you Google Super PACs, one of the top entries is Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. That's seriously funny.