Late Night: Stephen Colbert drops ‘super PAC’ to run for president

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On Thursday night, Stephen Colbert officially transferred control of his ‘super PAC’ to his late-night colleague, Jon Stewart, in order to clear the way for a possible presidential bid in his home state of South Carolina.

The announcement came after several days of speculation, triggered by a poll that showed non-candidate Colbert leading actual candidate Jon Huntsman in South Carolina. Colbert previously ran in South Carolina in 2008 and recently tried to buy naming rights to the state’s presidential primary using money from his well-funded super PAC.


“Clearly my fellow South Caroliniacs see me as the only Mitternative,” Colbert said.

In a bit that played like a very funny version of “Campaign Finance for Dummies,” Colbert’s lawyer, Trevor Potter, said that the talk-show host would have to relinquish control of his super PAC before he would be able to run for president. (Potter knows a thing or two about campaign finance: He was general counsel to John McCain’s campaign in 2008 and is the former chairman of the Federal Election Committee.)

“You cannot be a candidate and run a super PAC. That would be coordinating with yourself,” Potter explained.

“Right. And I’d go blind,” Colbert joked. “But here’s the thing. I love my super Pac and I love the money.”

Potter proposed an entirely legal option that would allow Colbert to keep the cash while also running for president: “You can’t have the PAC but you could have it run by somebody else.”

“I think I know a guy,” Colbert said, calling Jon Stewart onstage.

Though Stewart and Colbert are colleagues, it’s entirely legal for Stewart to run the super PAC (as Colbert pointed out, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry each have super PACS run by close associates). In fact, Stewart can even hire Colbert’s entire super PAC staff to produce ads for the candidate, just so long as they have no knowledge of the candidate’s campaign strategy.

“Well that’s easy. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” Colbert quipped.

Stewart figured that the transfer of power “for something as critical to our democracy as a super PAC” would require a tremendous amount of paperwork but, on the contrary, all it required was a two-page document signed by both Colbert and Stewart.

Just like that Colbert Super-PAC was dead, reborn as “The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super-PAC.”

Having taken care of administrative matters, Colbert announced that he is “forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina.”

As confetti rained down from the ceiling, Colbert triumphantly exclaimed, “With your help, and possibly the help of some outside group that I am not coordinating with, we can explore taking this country back. Thank you, God bless you all, and God bless Citizens United!”

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— Meredith Blake