Ever since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January 2010, Stephen Colbert has been satirizing campaign finance laws on his Comedy Central show. In one particularly newsworthy bit this past September, Colbert formed his own 501c(4) non-profit company, which does not require donor disclosure, and demonstrated that he could have that company donate to FEC-approved 527 group (aka a “super PAC”), which must disclose its donors. Colbert confirmed with campaign finance lawyer Trevor Potter that this loophole was entirely legal and yet curiously similar to money laundering. You can watch the video below:
On the show, Colbert implied that Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, a 501c(4) group, was using this tactic to essentially launder money to its related super PAC, American Crossroads. It was a pretty effective indictment of the current campaign finance laws with a good bashing of Rove and his conservative group to boot.
There was just one problem: Crossroads GPS hasn’t donated any money to American Crossroads and has said it has no plans to do so. A few days later, Colbert had to “issue a clarification” on air for the insinuation.
But Colbert’s criticism of the loophole remains intact, which is why this graph at the New York Times showing who funds the major 2012 super PACs is so interesting. Priorities USA Action, the Obama-affiliated super PAC (which must disclose its donors) received over $215,000 in the last quarter from Priorities USA, the Obama-affiliated 501c(4) (which does not have to disclose its donors).
This begs the question: Will Colbert point out on his show, as he mistakenly did with Rove’s organizations, that Obama’s super PAC is operating a legal “money laundering” scheme?