January 18, 2012

Super PACs and Steven Colbert

What's the big deal?

Stephen Colbert: I’ve announced that I’m doing an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina.

Jessica: That is right. Comedian Stephen Colbert, on his show on Comedy Central, saying he is considering running for president and looking to get voters to write him in on the ballots in South Carolina…even though South Carolina doesn’t accept write-in votes.

Colbert is using his fake run for president to draw attention to new campaign finance laws which allow anonymous people to donate unlimited amounts of money. They can do this through what are called super PACs, or political action committees. Private organizations that raise money in support of an issue or candidate. Now, the super PACs are not formally associated with any campaign, meaning candidates like Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich don’t control them even if those super PACs support them.

Normally, there are a lot of rules about how candidates can raise and spend money. But because super PACs are not affiliated with a campaign directly, they can raise unlimited amounts of money and they don’t immediately have to disclose where that money came from. They can use that money to buy ads to attack other candidates or support a particular candidate.

Colbert started his own super PAC which paid for this ad:

“If Mitt Romney really believes “corporations are people, my friend,” then Mitt Romney is a serial killer. He’s Mitt the ripper.”

Jessica: Ok. So, that might not be real and Mitt Romney is not a serial killer. But it is actually very similar to some real campaign ads airing in South Carolina right now, some attacking Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

“For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town.”

Jessica: Others going after Newt Gingrich.

“Newt Gingrich has baggage.”

Jessica: And it is not the candidates themselves behind the real ads. They are all funded by super PACs.

Gingrich and Romney have insisted they have no control over super PACs. And in Monday’s debate on Fox News Channel, they said the ads should be removed if they are inaccurate.

“I think it is an absurdity, and it would be nice if Governor Romney would exercise some leadership on his former staff and his major donors to take falsehoods off the air.”

“If we are talking about super PAC ads that are inaccurate, mister speaker you have a super PAC ad that attacks me. It’s probably the biggest hoax since bigfoot.”

Jessica: But super PACs are not going anywhere. So far they have paid for $10 million worth of ads. And an Associated Press analysis says the ads have affected primary results more than any other type of campaigning.


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