When last we met, I was explaining a lot of things about election regulation in the US which were equal parts terrifying and mind-destroyingly boring. Now, I give you:

Part II: The Execution Thereof, or: The post where I link to all the funny bits.



Stephen Colbert wound up semi-accidentally running for President in 2008. He had a gag going on The Colbert Report where he satirized this thing several of the serious candidates were doing where they refused to give a straight answer on whether they were officially going to run or not, presumably hedging their bets until they found out whether their poll results were embarrassingly terrible. After making sure he wasn't breaking any laws -- and making doubly sure he was in no danger of actually winning -- he decided the best place to stand while mocking them was right in the middle of the three-ring circus.

He had no real intention of repeating the stunt, but the 2010 reform to campaign finance laws got the better of him, and in 2011, Colbert went off and founded his own political action committee, ColbertPAC, mainly because everyone else already had one. He started, intelligently enough, by getting a lawyer. TV Tropes notes that Trevor Potter may now be the only real-life lawyer with his own fanclub. You will also observe that he is a ridiculously good sport. And that this may be the first audience in history to scream in excitement when offered email spam.

After about two weeks, he got bored of hearing official-type people complaining that Viacom had given him stuff in violation of PAC regulations. So he invited Potter back and converted ColbertPAC into a SuperPAC, because more superer is more betterer. His lawyer remains a ludicrously good sport.

(n.b. -- I'm not sure whether Potter is Colbert's attorney or "Colbert's" attorney. The only practical difference, I imagine, is whether he had any idea what he was getting into when someone phoned him up to ask a lot of extremely hypothetical questions about whether this would be legal.

n. slightly less b. -- I'm a wee bit surprised that "Colbert" is finishing sentences, what with a pen that lights up when you click it. Behold, the power of a SuperPAC.)

The FEC had a few questions. Most people have questions for Colbert when he shows up, and most of those question are variations on, "...what are you doing?" and are accompanied by squinty suspicious glances. In the case of the FEC, it was probably also accompanied by an order for mass quantities of Advil, because another side effect of Colbert showing up in person for things like hearings is the sudden appearance of hordes of fans who follow him around, waiting for him to confuse and annoy important people.

The specific political action taken by Colbert SuperPAC was dictated by Rule of Funny plus things they could make stupid puns about, times Stephen Colbert is an incredibly nice human being and has a knack for inadvertently raising large amounts of money, which he then loads into wheelbarrows and dumps on a charity somewhere. The SuperPAC was technically dedicated to doing political advertising stuff, so Colbert mainly faffed about annoying people with campaign ads "for" various candidates and making up off-color donor names to run across the ticker on the bottom of the screen. Generous man that he is, it eventually dawned on Colbert that perhaps some of his supporters (read: large corporations with very deep pockets) wished to donate anonymously, so as not to take any of the credit away from his own greatness. You can't do that with a SuperPAC, of course, as you must make the donor lists public. Conveniently, it turns out that there's nothing that says you can't take anonymous donations via your own little non-profit corporation and then turn around and give them to your own SuperPAC.

Trevor Potter -- who, as Colbert repeatedly points out, is a former chairman of the FEC -- clearly thinks this is the funniest fucking thing he has ever seen in his life. Even after Colbert finally manages to break him with one of his analogies.

(n. again b. -- Colbert picks on Karl Rove because... well, because the case at hand is the kind of skeezy thing he picks on, and also because Rove flat refused to appear on The Colbert Report, ever. He fashioned an adequate Karl Rove-substitute by putting a pair of pundit glasses on a large ham. He called it 'Ham Rove'. Alarmingly enough, I'm telling you this because it's going to be important later.)

Inevitably, people started bugging Colbert to run for POTUS again in 2012, probably because those who enjoy throwing a spanner into the works by voting for a write-in got tired of scribbling "Mickey Mouse" on every ballot that passed through their hands. (He does have a few fans who have not figured out he's a comedian. They think he's being serious on his show. I'm not really sure how you'd handle people like that. Dumping a metric fuckton of Risperdal into the public water supply comes to mind.) The problem with that, of course, is because you cannot coordinate a SuperPAC and a campaign, you can't head both of them at the same time. That would just be rude.

Fortunately, Colbert has a permanent partner in crime perfectly legal business activities, thank you: Jon Stewart. Stewart, although he clearly thinks this is funny as hell, is not usually a culture jammer like Colbert is. He tends to simply smack stupidity square in the face without first wasting time judo-throwing it around. Here's his argument, here's the analogy that details at exactly what point you devolved into a raging twatwaffle, and here is a reminder that he is in fact terrifyingly smart, in case you'd forgotten. It works a lot, mainly because he has the kind of personality that belongs on a guy about a foot taller and at least a hundred pounds heavier than he actually is. I give about 50/50 odds that he got punched in the face a lot as a kid, depending on the kind of neighborhood he grew up in.

Jon Stewart, of course, handled the SuperPAC money with the utmost respect and decorum. All the way up until it dawned on him that technically he might accidentally do something illegalish, and that would be bad.

After demonstrating that campaign finance laws now had loopholes that could be exploited by anyone who remembered being a bored ten-year-old and playing the "I'm not touching you!" torture game with their siblings in the backseat of the car, Colbert decided that campaigning for President of South Carolina was too much work, and that he wanted to go back to running his own SuperPAC now. It took him a bit, but he did eventually get it back. Just in time to strike a triumphant pose at the start of his own show!

The Colbert SuperPAC survived until just after election time-ish, 2012, when due to the unfortunate passing of its chief advisor, Ham Rove, Colbert was tragically forced to shut down his SuperPAC, whereupon the $773,704.83 remaining in the account was lost to the ages. In an unrelated development, the Ham Rove Memorial Fund received a donation in the amount of $773,704.83 from an anonymous benefactor, to be distributed to a variety of charitable causes.

Oh, and he won a Peabody Award for it. Because his pranks are more educational than actual news reporting.

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