Comedy Central late night host Stephen Colbert has formed his own super political action committee, ostensibly for satirical purposes, but the fact that his PAC has access to air time via his nightly program and it inextricably tied to media giant Viacom caused the Federal Election Committee to take interest. In the end, it allowed Colbert’s PAC to exist with a firewall between it and Viacom.
Under terms of the ruling, any assistance Viacom gives to Colbert above and beyond using the PAC as material on his program would have to reported to the FEC as an in-kind contribution.
According to the Washington Post, Colbert was unable to extract very much humor out of his appearance before the FEC – in fact, his attorney did most of the talking — but once outside, he immediately began soliciting donations from fans who had gathered there.
The Colbert ruling essentially ties the activities of his PAC directly and tightly to his program – that’s the narrowly-tailored part of the 5-1 FEC ruling – and is not expected to have any effect on other news programs or commentators.