PAC American Crossroads, headed by Karl Rove, recently asked the FEC for an advisory opinion on their request to use video and audio of actual federal candidates in their advocacy of issues of the day in order to “improve the public’s perception” of the candidate. Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert, who has his own PAC, sarcastically agreed that the one shred of regulation bogging down American Crossroads – the prohibition on coordinating with candidates – should be removed.
Colbert’s pack is Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and his response to the Federal Election Commission sparked an unusually large response on the matter by ordinary citizens.
Crossroads had asked the FEC, “Consistent with the Federal Election Campaign Act, as amended, may American Crossroads produce and distribute television and/or radio issue advertisements featuring on-camera footage (or voice-over, in the case of radio advertisements) of incumbent Members of Congress who might face uncertain re-election prospects? Such advertisements would be thematically similar to the incumbent Members’ own re-election campaign materials, and may use phrases or slogans that the Member has previously used. The purpose of these advertisements, while focused on current legislative and policy issues, would be to improve the public’s perception of the featured Member of Congress in advance of the 2012 campaign season. If American Crossroads produces and distributes such advertisements, would it subsequently be limited in its ability to produce and distribute an independent expenditure in connection with the election of the previously featured incumbent Member of Congress and federal candidate?”
Crossroads admitted its intention was to cease abiding by the requirement that any advertising it does, it does on its own without contacting the candidate. “These advertisements would be fully coordinated with incumbent Members of Congress facing re-election in 2012 insofar as each Member would be consulted on the advertisement script and would then appear in the advertisement.”
In a letter to his PAC members, Colbert wrote, “As free as Super PACs are to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, they are still unfairly shackled by regulation. Notice I used the singular. That’s because there is really only one rule that binds Super PACs: that they may not coordinate with candidates’ campaigns. But what fun is buying somebody an election if you have no elected official to share the moment with?”
To the FEC, Colbert wrote, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow has much in common with American Crossroads. Both are registered “independent-expenditure-only” PACs (a.k.a. “Super PACs”) that may accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions, individuals, and doomsday cults we one day hope to found. Both groups are separately affiliated with prominent 501©(4) organizations, Colbert Super PAC SHH and Crossroads GPS, and are strongly committed to doing what is legally possible in America. Both have top strategic thinkers at their core: American Crossroads has Karl Rove, and Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow has a ham loaf wearing wire rimmed glasses.”
Commenting on the specifics of the Crossroads request, Colbert wrote, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow could not concur more concurrently. These ads would simply improve public perception of candidates in advance of the campaign. The message is not, ‘Vote for this great guy,’ it’s merely, ‘Hey voters! Look at this great guy!’ He added, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow agrees that ‘fully coordinated’ ads shouldn’t be counted as ‘coordinated communications.’ The candidate would merely be appearing as a paid spokesperson, who, coincidentally, is closely aligned with the candidate that he or she also is.
“Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow wholly endorses American Crossroads’ Request,” commented Colbert. “We hope the Commission is able to begin with the Supreme Court’s definition of Non-Coordinated as ‘expenditures … made totally independently of the candidate and his campaign’ in Buckley v. Valeo, and end up with a ruling that allows outside groups to produce ads with the candidate’s cooperation, themes, and message. That will prove to our nation’s critics that America is a country that still makes something: strained rationalizations.”
RBR-TVBR observation: We looked at some of the posted comments, and unlike most such campaigns, the participants actually wrote them personally. Although some pasted in Colbert’s comments, this was not the typical click and send proposition. Some of the comments, though, inspired by a comedian as they are, are really out there.