By Michael A. Memoli
8:13 AM PST, December 22, 2011
The South Carolina Republican Party is denying Stephen Colbert's contention Thursday that they had reached an agreement with the comedian to sell naming rights to its presidential preference primary.
So who's telling the truth? Or is this a case of "truthiness"?
Colbert, the host of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, writes in the Columbia State newspaper that there was in fact a done deal between the two sides.
After learning three months ago that the South Carolina GOP and local officials were at odds over who would pay for the Jan. 21 election, Colbert says he reached out to the party to offer to subsidize the cost, through his "Colbert Super PAC."
The cost, Colbert says he was told, was $400,000.
"I said, 'I can cover that. No strings attached,'" Colbert writes. "Of course, I can't offer that kind of no-strings-attached-money without getting something in return."
So in return, Colbert wanted the party to officially brand its election "The Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Republican Primary," and also add a non-binding referendum question on the ballot alongside the names of GOP presidential hopefuls. It would ask voters to declare whether "Corporations are people," or "only people are people," a reference to comments Mitt Romney made in Iowa this summer.
"The GOP agreed to everything," Colbert writes.
Not so, says executive director Matt Moore of the South Carolina GOP.
"Stephen Colbert, the private citizen, called out of the clear blue and made an unsolicited offer to help his home state. We were intrigued and met with him, but also wary," Moore said in an email statement. "We determined it was not in the state party's best interests to accept Mr. Colbert's offers. Everything was not 'agreed to.' We did not sign his proposed contract."
"Despite our repeatedly saying 'no,' Stephen Colbert, the comedian, seems intent on being involved. It's exactly why we were wary in the first place. The state party will not be involved with Stephen Colbert going forward," the statement concludes.
Ultimately the South Carolina Supreme Court decided that the state's counties had to foot the bill for the cost of the election. And Colbert is offering again to step up to the plate, under the same conditions he offered before.
"The counties need the money, and Colbert Super PAC wants to give it to you; call it a Christmas miracle," he says. "I've already filled out the check, and to prove it's no joke, I’ve written 'No Joke' in the memo line."
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