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Legal News: Law Blog - WSJ.com
Will Colbert Ride Citizens United All the Way to the White House?
By Ashby Jones
The answer to the above question is no. Of course not. Stephen Colbert’s got less chance of taking the White House than the football team at U.C. Santa Cruz has of winning the 2012 Super Bowl. That’s right; it’s not even in the zone of possibility.
Still, we get a kick out of Colbert when we watch him, and really got a kick out of his short-lived presidential run in 2008. The fact that he called it his “Stephen Colbert Nacho Cheese Doritos 2008 Campaign” still makes us laugh.
So our spirits were lifted when we watched this clip, courtesy of Politico, from earlier this week in which Colbert boldly pronounces that the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United case is going to provide the wind beneath the wings of a potential 2012 run.
Election law issues came up during Colbert’s last “run,” in 2008. Reports Politico:
While the segments, heavy on the over-the-top bloviation that has made Colbert a pop culture phenomenon, were clearly a part of his shtick, they nonetheless raised some serious legal issues revolving around federal election law prohibitions on corporate campaign contributions.
In fact, Comedy Central consulted a top Washington election law firm and Colbert announced that - based on the firm's advice - he was launching a new campaign website rather than one linked to the network to post a downloadable petition seeking signatures to get on the South Carolina Democratic ballot.
The potential problems were not so much the Doritos "sponsorship" - though that too might have raised issues had Colbert gotten on the South Carolina ballot - but rather that Comedy Central was spending its corporate funds promoting his "campaign" by allowing him to hype it on his show.
But we woke up last week to an election-law world that’s vastly changed. Will the Citizens United case allow Colbert to team up with Frito Lay (or some other corporate sponsor) to help fund his run?
It seems that despite Colbert’s claims, the answer is still, well, no. Opines Politico:
Colbert's reading of the decision was a bit off, however, since the court only allowed corporations and unions to air ads independently supporting or opposing a candidate, but allowed them neither to contribute directly to the candidate nor to pay for ads that are coordinated with the campaign.
But it didn’t stop Colbert who kept the joke alive. He predicted that "when historians look back at the coming corporate sponsi-garchy, they’ll start with my 2008 presidential campaign," proclaiming himself "the Rosa Parks of riding in the back of a corporate jet."
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