The Federal Election Commission (FEC) today rejected in part a request by Stephen Colbert, of the popular comedy show, “The Colbert Report,” to expand the reach of the “press exemption” under campaign finance law.
The FEC approved a modified version of the Colbert Advisory Opinion request that is fairly narrow and consistent with the current press exemption. In other words, reason (and Public Citizen, which asked the agency to rule narrowly on this request) more or less prevailed.
The agency approved Colbert’s request to create a Super PAC and raise unlimited corporate donations for his committee, subject to the disclosure requirements. But media corporations, such as Viacom, may not exploit the press exemption to pay for Colbert’s campaign activities beyond a legitimate news function and avoid the disclosure requirements.
The vote was 5-to-1. Apparently, several Republican commissioners chose not to be the continuing butt of jokes about their deadlocking the agency so as to render it incapable of making decisions. Unfortunately, this new bipartisan spirit is likely to fade as soon as Colbert walks out the door.
To read Public Citizen’s letter sent to the FEC yesterday urging the agency to deny Colbert’s petition, visit: http://www.citizen.org/documents/Colbert-Letter-FEC-20110629.pdf.
Craig Holman is Public Citizen’s government affairs lobbyist.
Click to see the "Hot Coffee" trailer.
Talking points. In Washington, D.C., we eat them for breakfast. In our 24 hour cable news, social media, info-explosive culture – corporations know the power of words and they regularly use them to turn advocacy groups against ourselves, to create political divisions among ordinary Americans where none exist, to play off fears and to spread misinformation. In short, they use words to spread corporate mythology. Finally, for organizations like Public Citizen that have been fighting for citizen access to justice for years there’s someone exposing the real story behind the corporate mythology of tort “reform.”
I say jury, you say ________ . I say lawsuit you say_______. According to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), “If you filled in the blank with ‘runaway’ or ‘frivolous,’ you’re a testament to the corporate propaganda campaign.” As a civil justice attorney, Susan Saladoff had seen and heard enough. She set about to expose the truth behind the corporate push for tort “reform” and started by tackling the unfortunate poster child, Stella Liebeck.
In 1992, Liebeck was burned by hot coffee from McDonald’s. How hot? 180-degrees-hot. Third-degree-burns-hot. The-doctors-weren’t-sure-she-would-live-hot. But as Saladoff explains in the opening story of her documentary “Hot Coffee” —this wasn’t the story corporate interests wanted you to hear.
The reviews for this film alone ought to be reason enough for you to tune in . . .
In yet another disappointing decision by a slim majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices have invalidated the “trigger provision” of Arizona’s campaign finance law. The trigger provision provides qualified candidates with additional public funds to match excessive spending by wealthy opponents.
While Public Citizen is disappointed with the ruling in Arizona’s Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, we are heartened by the fact that the court did not attack the concept of public financing of elections. Those who brought the case against Arizona’s public financing program had hoped the Supreme Court would invalidate public financing itself, but the justices refused.
That means public financing programs – without a trigger threshold – remain firmly intact. The Fair Elections Now Act, legislation that would enhance small contributions with a robust public financing matching program in federal elections, is now the model for reducing the potentially corrupting influence of big money in politics. We heartily endorse this model and again express our appreciation to its key sponsors, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.).
Craig Holman is Public Citizens government reform lobbyist
Take action on Fair Elections Now Act!
Stunning Statistics of the Week:
Crossroads groups vow to spend $120 million in 2012 cycle
Representatives from American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies, two fundraising groups co-created by GOP strategist Karl Rove, vowed to spend $120 million to defeat Democrats in 2012. Mike Duncan, chair American Crossroads, said, “There’s not too much money in politics.”
More Crossroads activity
American Crossroads, the Rove-created Super PAC, is targeting Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) with a website, Twitter feed and $150,000 worth of radio ads.
Boulder may put corporate personhood abolition on the ballot
Boulder is moving closer to putting a referendum on the November ballot that would ask voters whether they think the U.S. Constitution should be amended to abolish corporate personhood. A similar measure was on the ballot in two Wisconsin jurisdictions in March, and it passed overwhelmingly. The push for the measures is part of a campaign to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which said that corporations have the same free speech rights as people and so can spend unlimited amounts of money to sway elections.
Speaking of Colorado … Kochs going to Colorado, protest planned
The billionaire, right-wing Koch brothers are planning to have a retreat for conservatives in Vail this weekend. As soon as the news broke, progressives began laying plans for a protest.
But will he be funny?
Comedian Stephen Colbert, who is attempting to launch a Super PAC to make a point about the out-of-control spending in elections, is expected to show up at next week’s Federal Election Commission meeting to ask some questions.