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Stephen Colbert's Free Speech Problem


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WSJ:

The comedian runs up against campaign-finance law in an attempt to lampoon the Supreme Court
STEVE SIMPSON AND PAUL SHERMAN
5/19/11

Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert, like most of his friends and allies on the left, thinks that last year's Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is, literally, ridiculous. To make his case that the ruling invites "unlimited corporate money" to dominate politics, Mr. Colbert decided to set up a political action committee (PAC) of his own. So far, though, the joke's been on him.

The hilarity began last month, when Mr. Colbert began to have difficulty setting up his PAC, which is a group that can raise money to run political ads or make contributions to candidates. So he called in Trevor Potter, a former Federal Elections Commission (FEC) chairman who is now a high-powered Washington lawyer.

Mr. Potter delivered some unfunny news: Mr. Colbert couldn't set up his PAC because his show airs on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, and corporations like Viacom cannot make contributions to PACs that give money to candidates. As Mr. Potter pointed out, Mr. Colbert's on-air discussions of the candidates he supports might count as an illegal "in-kind" contribution from Viacom to Mr. Colbert's PAC.

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