Media Politics

Is Stephen Colbert Going Too Far?

Late Update: Like it or not, Stephen Colbert has scored a victory and gotten his SuperPAC.

Talking Points Memo ( @tpmmedia @joshtpm ) has a new article up about the antics of Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert. For the last few years, Colbert has been insinuating himself into national politics, threatening to run for president, to hilarious effect. He’s been doing an able job of making campaign finance law seem like the bag of shit that it actually is, but now some reformers are worried that his current tactics are setting a dangerous precedent:

Ultimately, if they follow the suggestions of their staff, the FEC seems set to let the Colbert Super PAC go forward one way or another… That’s a move that has campaign finance reformers worried… “This would carve out a gaping loophole in campaign finance laws, allowing any company involved in media to foot, in secret and without limit, the electioneering expenses of political committees,” Public Citizen’s government affairs lobbyist Craig Holman said in a statement.

I can certainly sympathize with those trying to reform our labyrinthine and ultimately ineffectual campaign finance laws. And watching the show, I’ve had the same sick feeling that the joke maybe is going to far.

But the problem isn’t that Stephen is taking the joke too far, but that the joke is possible at all. If he can – for comedy’s sake – twist the laws of campaigns in ways that forces the FEC to grant him a SuperPAC, then someone else can and probably already is trying to do so for political and financial gain. Like Andy Kaufman before him, Colbert isn’t causing things to happen, he’s causing things to happen in public.

The question is: can Colbert turn the corner on this prank and use it to affect some real change? Does he want to? I guess we’ll have to watch and see what happens next.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.