Colbert, Roemer take on Karl Rove, Nebraska Dems maneuvering
Comedian Stephen Colbert, who long ago mixed reality and comedy with the formation of his own Super PAC, has offered back-hand support of a Federal Elections Commission request by American Crossroads to feature federal candidates in ads developed and marketed by the PAC.
Third-party organizations such as PACs, under FEC rules, are not allowed to coordinate or work directly with candidate campaigns except under very limited circumstances. But recently the Nebraska Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pushed that envelope by developing television and radio political advertisements that featured U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat who is expected to appear on the 2012 ballot. (Nelson has not yet officially launched his 2012 bid and has said he will make his decision next month.)
State Democrats, the DSCC and the Nelson campaign maintain that the ads are not campaign ads because no one is asked directly to support Nelson’s election. Instead, they say, these are issue ads, or ads that are intended to educate voters on specific issues and/or policy debates. It’s estimated that roughly $1 million has been spent on the ad campaign thus far; and, according to Nelson’s campaign, similar ads were run in 2006 at a tune of roughly $1.5 million.
In response, Nebraska Republicans filed a complaint with the FEC, charging that the ads are veiled campaign messages intended for Nelson’s reelection and, therefore, far exceed the $240,000 cap on such coordinated pushes. And American Crossroads, a conservative group founded by Karl Rove, has asked the FEC for an advisory opinion to determine if it can “adopt the tactics” and use federal candidates in its ads. If the FEC rules that such advertisements are indeed issue-based, state parties will no longer be subject to a cap on how much they can spent to help the election hopes of a candidate and third-party groups will have a whole new political buffet at the ready.
On his Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, Colbert provided his typical take on the controversy before bringing in his attorney and former FEC head Trever Potter to discuss if the Colbert Super PAC could get in on the action.
“These Ben Nelson issue ads and the kinds of ads that Karl wants to run, they’re not campaign ads, right?” asked Colbert. “They’re just issue ads that happen to have the candidate in them who is campaigning for office. Just because someone is in my ad doesn’t mean that we are coordinating with their campaign — anymore than just because [or] if my penis was in someone’s vagina doesn’t mean we are having sex.”
Ultimately, Colbert signs a letter to the FEC asking the body to approve the American Crossroads’ request. In addition to the letter, which was not read on air, Colbert developed a sample ad, embedded below and featuring former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, to show the FEC members how approving the request would play out in advertisements.
It isn’t the first time Roemer has appeared on The Colbert Report, nor is is the first time the Democrat-turned-Republican has taken on special interest money in politics. His campaign has has a self-imposed ban on special interest money, and will only accept individual contributions of $100 or less.