The FEC ruled today that Stephen Colbert can have his own Super PAC and fund it with unlimited contributions from basically whoever the hell he wants. He's going to do a lot of funny things with this! What exactly, though, he's not quite sure yet, or at least he's not telling. "We don't know what we're going to do with the ads," he said at a hearing today, "where we would place them, because we don't have the PAC yet."
But the implications of the FEC decision go beyond providing Colbert with a new platform with which to satirize the presidential campaign. We'll let The Atlantic's Chris Good, who knows a lot more about this than we do, explain:
With the FEC's approval, Colbert will now:
* Take in unlimited donations from nearly any source, other than foreign nationals and government contractors
* Air TV and radio ads expressly telling viewers and listeners to vote for certain candidates -- but his group cannot give money directly to those candidates
* Report contributions to the Federal Election Commission
* Report spending on campaign ads
The trend in recent years among soft-money groups has been to file with the IRS under section 527 of the U.S. tax code, and not with the FEC, thereby evading reporting requirements under the guise of "issue advocacy." Colbert, meanwhile, has chosen to register with the FEC and be subject to greater disclosure requirements. Today's development, hinted at by previous FEC rulings, is that an FEC-registered group, not a 527, can take in unlimited money from individuals, corporations, and unions as long as it does not donate any of that money directly to candidates. It can air ads telling people to vote for candidates, but it cannot give its money directly to their campaigns.
But basically, it's going to be funny.