Super PAC Satire: Colbert Explains (Faux) Presidential Run to ABC News

Colbert's run highlights unlimited spending in political campaigns.

January 14, 2012, 6:46 PM

Jan. 15, 2012 -- Running for president is hard work. But for comedian Stephen Colbert, who announced his plans to "explore" a presidential bid in South Carolina earlier this week, it's not the long hours of campaigning or the intense public scrutiny that weighed against his decision to run, it was giving up control of his Super PAC.

"To do this exploratory committee, I had to give away my Super PAC," Colbert told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview Sunday morning on "This Week." "That's my baby. Do you know how hard it is to give away a baby? Now imagine if that baby had a whole lot of money. Imagine how much harder that would be to give away."

Colbert is using his faux bid for the White House to draw attention to new campaign finance laws that allow unnamed donors to pour unlimited funds into super PACs, which can spend that money to support political candidates as long as they do not directly coordinate with a candidate.

"Why would you worry about what money is doing to the political process?" Colbert said, a twinge of sarcasm in his voice. "There are $11.2 million worth of ads being run in South Carolina. That just means more speech than ever before in South Carolina."

Colbert's super PAC, which was re-named The Definitely Not Coordinated With Stephen Colbert Super PAC after Colbert announced his exploratory committee, launched an ad in South Carolina this week labeling Mitt Romney a "serial killer."

The Colbert super PAC ad is an obvious spoof of anti-Romney ads being run by the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC in the Palmetto State. Gingrich has said any untrue statements should be removed from the ad, but, because the PAC does not coordinate with Gingrich, it has refused to re-edit the ads, which some say stretch the truth about Romney's time at Bain Capital.

Colbert took a similar tone, saying he had "nothing to do" with the "serial killer" ads.

"I am not calling anyone a serial killer," Colbert said. "That's not my super PAC."

Colbert handed the reins of his PAC over to fellow comedian Jon Stewart earlier this week.

Colbert said that he has not launched a campaign for president, but merely an exploratory committee to find out "if there is a hunger for a Stephen Colbert campaign."

"I'm exploring right now," he said. "I'm like a one-man Lewis and Clark and I'm looking for my Sacagawea."

Colbert, who launched a similar push during the 2008 presidential race, first floated his 2012 aspirations earlier this week, noting that he is already beating GOP candidate Jon Huntsman in one South Carolina poll.

"This just got real," Colbert said Wednesday on "The Colbert Report." "I've got to ask: What do you think, nation? Should I run for president in South Carolina?"

However, Colbert's purported campaign faces several uphill battles, namely that the deadline for getting his name on the ballot has passed and South Carolina's voting system does not allow for write-in candidates.

The only place where someone could conceivably write in a vote for Colbert is on an absentee ballot. Those are still being sent out as requested. However, those ballots would not be counted by the state.

Colbert brushed off such ballot access issues.

"They say I can't get on the ballot in South Carolina?" he said. "They said you can't go to the moon. They said you can't put cheese inside a pizza crust, but NASA did it."

According a South Carolina poll from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling group, Colbert is beating Huntsman, who finished third in the New Hampshire primary. Colbert had 5 percent of the survey compared to Huntsman's 4 percent.

Matt Moore, executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, said Colbert's chances of winning his state's primary are "nonexistent." Moore sent a statement to ABC News dismissing the comedian's campaign efforts.

"South Carolina state law does not allow write-in ballots in presidential primaries. There is no 'blank' space on voting machines to write-in a candidate" wrote Moore. "Stephen Colbert has about as much a chance at being elected president in South Carolina as he does of being elected Pope. Zero. It didn't work four years ago, and it won't work now. The gag is worn out."

Colbert has dipped his toe into the Republican primary process multiple times this year.

After the South Carolina Republican Party reported having trouble financing its primary in December, Colbert offered to buy the state's primary with $500,000 from his super PAC, an offer the party declined. In exchange for the funds, Colbert said he wanted to re-name the primary, "The Stephen Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Primary."

The comedian also attempted to host his own GOP debate, saying on his Facebook page that there was "a giant, ego-shaped hole in the Republican primaries" after Donald Trump pulled out of moderating a Newsmax debate.

"Stephen is from South Carolina and he's going to do what he's going to do," Moore said. "He's in the business of comedy and he's from South Carolina, so it's no surprise he wants to be involved here."

Colbert grabbed headlines in June when a Federal Elections Committee panel approved his super PAC, which can collect and spend unlimited funds, and ruled that he could promote the PAC on his Comedy Central show.