WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Election Commission said Thursday that comedian Stephen Colbert can use his TV show’s resources to boost his political action committee, but he must disclose some major expenses as in-kind contributions from the show’s corporate owners.
Colbert played it straight during his appearance before the commission, letting his attorney do most of the talking while saving his trademark quips for a crowd that gathered outside the commission building after the meeting.
“I don’t accept the status quo,” he told the crowd, brandishing a portable credit card processing machine. “I do accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express.”
Many in the crowd handed Colbert their credit cards or dollar bills as contributions.
Asked what point he was trying to make about corporate America, Colbert did not miss a beat.
“None,” he quipped. “I want their money.”
Colbert, who plays a conservative TV pundit on “The Colbert Report,” is forming Colbert Super PAC, a type of political action committee that will allow him to raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals. The money will be used to support or oppose candidates in the 2012 elections through independent expenditures such as TV ads.
Colbert has not indicated what kinds of candidates he might support.
The FEC decision comes amid a broader erosion of campaign finance regulations in the wake of recent court rulings and with Republicans on the Federal Election Commission and elsewhere pushing for a rollback to give corporations and other wealthy donors stronger sway in financing campaigns.
Colbert had asked the commission for a “media exemption” to allow him to use his show’s airtime, staff and other resources for his political action committee without having to publicly disclose them as in-kind contributions from Comedy Central’s parent company, Viacom Inc.
In-kind contributions are given as goods or services rather than money.
Colbert has said undisclosed contributions could include the use of his show’s staff to create TV advertisements about candidates that would air as paid commercials on other shows and networks.
The commission ruled 5-1 that he would have to publicly disclose as in-kind contributions from Viacom any ads produced by the show for Colbert Super PAC that air on other shows or networks. He also would have to disclose administrative costs that his show covers for Colbert Super PAC.