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June 30, 2011

Reason Prevails as FEC Declines To Expand ‘Press Exemption’ for Colbert Super PAC

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) today rejected in part a request by Stephen Colbert, of the popular comedy show, “The Colbert Report,” to expand the reach of the “press exemption” under campaign finance law.

The FEC approved a modified version of the Colbert Advisory Opinion request that is fairly narrow and consistent with the current press exemption. In other words, reason (and Public Citizen, which asked the agency to rule narrowly on this request) more or less prevailed.

The agency approved Colbert’s request to create a Super PAC and raise unlimited corporate donations for his committee, subject to the disclosure requirements. But media corporations, such as Viacom, may not exploit the press exemption to pay for Colbert’s campaign activities beyond a legitimate news function and avoid the disclosure requirements.
The vote was 5-to-1. Apparently, several Republican commissioners chose not to be the continuing butt of jokes about their deadlocking the agency so as to render it incapable of making decisions. Unfortunately, this new bipartisan spirit is likely to fade as soon as Colbert walks out the door.

To read Public Citizen’s letter sent to the FEC yesterday urging the agency to deny Colbert’s petition, visit: http://www.citizen.org/documents/Colbert-Letter-FEC-20110629.pdf.

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