No joke: Stephen Colbert wants naming rights to S.C. GOP primary
TV satirist Stephen Colbert and his new super PAC are not giving up on their quest to acquire the naming rights to the GOP primary in his home state of South Carolina.
Colbert, host of Comedy Central's "Colbert Report," formed a super PAC earlier this year, apparently to expose the new normal of campaign fundraising after the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. That ruling overturned a century-old restriction on corporate campaign donations, allowing corporations to spend as much as they wish in federal elections.
This month the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported that Colbert offered to help cover the costs of the Jan. 21 presidential primary, the first in the South, if the state GOP would change its name to “The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary," just as Frito-Lay has paid to affix "Tostitos" to "Fiesta Bowl."
He also asked the party to support placing a referendum question on the January ballot asking voters whether they believe "corporations are people," an issue at the heart of the Citizens United case, or "only people are people," an assertion echoing a 1984 Depeche Mode hit.
The State's Gina Smith reported that the GOP passed on the naming rights, but agreed to put the question on the primary ballot in exchange for a pledge of a "significant contribution" from Colbert's PAC.
Then, however, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck all referendum questions from the ballot.
That wasn't the end of things. South Carolina's GOP is also caught up in a complicated drama over how much of the primary it should pay for, and how much of the tab should be picked up by the government. Matt Moore, the executive director of the state GOP, has said he believes that a recent court ruling makes the state and counties "solely responsible for the primary."
This morning, in a guest editorial in The State, Colbert said that the counties were now "on the hook" for the half-million dollars it will take to hold the primary vote.
"That’s money that counties need for emergency services, infrastructure repair, and to complete the wall to keep out North Carolinians," Colbert wrote. "Once again, our first-in-the-South primary is in jeopardy."
The comedian offered a new deal: He will cover the shortfall, but he wants "only two things" from the state GOP -- that it support a Democratic petition to get the referendum back on the ballot, and the naming rights.
"The counties need the money, and Colbert Super PAC wants to give it to you; call it a Christmas Miracle," he wrote. "I’ve already filled out the check, and to prove it’s no joke, I’ve written 'No Joke' in the memo line."
Colbert later wrote that the name would be “The Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Republican Primary.”
-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta
Photo: Stephen Colbert speaking in November at an event in New York honoring Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Credit: Fernando Leon/Getty Images