The Federal Election Commission recognized that Stephen Colbert was just screwing with them when he proposed creating a “Super PAC,” one that would spend unlimited amounts of Viacom money on the 2012 presidential campaign without having to declare them as “in-kind” contributions. But today they gave him a serious response anyway, granting him permission to go ahead and do it in a 5-1 vote. Colbert had sought to form his committee as a way of spoofing last year’s Supreme Court decision removing limits on political spending from corporations and unions. Now his performance art stunt has the blessing of the F.E.C., and a website where you too can donate toward the cause of spreading satirical shame.
And while many campaign finance reform groups grew worried as it looked like Colbert’s little joke might become a reality, thereby paving the way for other networks to follow his lead and funnel corporate cash into political committees—such as, say, Fox News backing the campaigns of Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee—in this case, at least, Colbert’s media exemption restricts him to using those undisclosed Viacom-raised funds solely to create ads for airing on his show. Actually, even under those limitations, that may not be enough to reassure people who fear this could establish a Fox News loophole… Well, whatever. The important thing is that, in addition to making a trenchant satirical point about the absurdity of campaign finance laws, it also made for a pretty funny press conference—and if not a push for total reform, then at the very least, some equally funny (and expensive!) mock-political ads to come.