That Stephen Colbert is a comic genius has been well known, at least to his fans, for some time. However, Mr. Colbert’s talent extends beyond the field of comedy. In fact, if there were a Nobel Prize for political commentary, he might well deserve to win it for his work informing the American public of the sinister nature of the newly established political creatures known as super PACs, and the 501(c)4s that are effectively their political co-conspirators.
Through the creation and publicizing of his own super PAC -- the Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow -- and that super PAC’s 501(c)4 partner -- Colbert Super PAC SHH! -- Colbert used his considerable comic talent to demonstrate just how perilous those new creatures can be: potentially both enormously powerful and utterly secret.
Earlier this week, with the election now over, Mr. Colbert concluded at least this initial phase of his seminar on super PACs by announcing the end of Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. With the distinguished election law attorney and former Chair of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) Trevor Potter, Colbert demonstrated how easily super PACs can maintain their cloak of secrecy even after they have been dismantled.
Thanks to the ridiculously inadequate FEC regulations, Mr. Colbert showed how easily the nearly $1 million he has left in his super PAC can be laundered through his 501(c)4 into a newly created second 501(c)4 where he will be free to do anything he wants, including giving it all to himself if he chooses. Basically a legalized money laundering system for affecting our elections and padding consultants’ pockets.
The laughably insufficient regulations governing this area may be surpassed only by the unwillingness of either the FEC, which has prime jurisdiction over super PACs, or the IRS, which oversees 501(c)4s, to do their jobs.
Perhaps better than anyone else, Mr. Colbert has demonstrated that the current situation is more absurd than any play Samuel Beckett could dream up. For that, American voters should offer Mr. Colbert their thanks.