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Late Night: Nancy Pelosi and Stephen Colbert talk 'super' PACs

February 23, 2012 |  8:41 am

Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi once vowed she would never appear on "The Colbert Report," but on Wednesday she went back on her word, joining host Stephen Colbert for a lively conversation about the effect of super PACs on electoral politics. 

So why the flip-flop? A few weeks ago, Pelosi unveiled a spoof attack ad aimed at Colbert, whose super PAC "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow," has raised over $1 million. In the video, Pelosi urged Americans to support the DISCLOSE Act, a proposed bill that would require businesses to disclose their political spending. She even claimed that Colbert doesn't like kittens, a charge the host vehemently denied on his show earlier this week. 

Given such scurrilous allegations, it's not surprising that the segment began on a confrontational note. "Do you often break your promises?" Colbert asked Pelosi. She explained that her appearance was merely a part of her "Lenten resolution to do good works and be kind to Republicans." Speaking of Lent, Colbert wondered why Pelosi, a fellow Catholic, didn't have any ashes on her forehead. "Later," she claimed somewhat unconvincingly. 

The subject inevitably turned to super PACs. Pelosi warned that, contrary to the wishes of the Founding Fathers, super PACs will turn America into a "plutocracy" governed by a handful of extremely wealthy people. Though she advocates the eventual overturn of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, Pelosi argued that the DISCLOSE Act would bring some much-needed transparency to the process by forcing donors to "stand by" their ads.

Colbert was more skeptical. "If people knew what businesses were giving millions and millions of dollars to individual political candidates, isn’t there a chance that the consumers would retaliate against those businesses by not buying their products?" he asked.

"That’s why the businesses don’t want to disclose," Pelosi replied. 

Colbert suggested there wasn't anything wrong with wealthy donors trying buy the presidency: "If you keep the receipt you can exchange him for a new president if you don’t like him. That’s business. You don’t believe in business, madam. I say let the free market decide who represents us."

Pelosi insisted that, while an advocate of the free market, she also supports "free elections."

In the end, Pelosi and Colbert were able to reach a compromise: Colbert promised to throw his weight behind the DISCLOSE Act if Pelosi would encourage her fellow House Democrats to appear in Colbert's "Better Know a District" series.

This time, we hope she keeps her word.

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-- Meredith Blake 

twitter.com/MeredithBlake

Photo: Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press.

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