May 24, 2012
Trevor Potter’s remarks to the American Law Institute

Yesterday, former FEC commissioner and the lawyer who advises Stephen Colbert on his popular Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, spoke to the American Law Institute, a leading body for legal thought.  His remarks began this way (hat tip to the Election Law Blog):

I am often asked how, after 25 years as an election lawyer, service as an FEC Commissioner, and General Counsel to 2 presidential campaigns, did you end up as Stephen Colbert’s lawyer on late night TV.  The answer is “I was lucky…”

It just goes to show—90% of life is “just showing up”—and returning phone calls.

I was at my desk one day last spring and the Colbert staff called—“What is a PAC.  Would you be willing to explain it on the Show?”  And I’ve been doing it ever since…with the forbearance of my law partners at Caplin & Drysdale, although as one of them put it to me,  “For the first time in 30 years, my kids care what I do, because I work with Stephen Colbert’s lawyer!”

Today’s full press release with his complete address is here.

May 7, 2012
A slew of super PAC news

April 19, 2012
Trevor Potter corrects 5 myths about super PACs

One of the goals of this blog is to set the record straight on Citizens United and its effects and a new piece by Trevor Potter (former Commissioner and Chairman of the Federal Election Commission and Stephen Colbert’s lawyer) achieves that goal very effectively.

Trevor Potter with Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report

Writes Potter:

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United allowed them. Political candidates rely on them. And Stephen Colbert parodies them. But as a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and the lawyer behind Colbert’s super PAC — Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow — I find that most people don’t understand the role that these largely unaccountable organizations play in American politics. As the GOP primary race draws to a close, let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about groups powerful enough to evade traditional limits with a single bound.

Click here for the five myths and Potter’s explanations.

April 5, 2012
Colbert Report Receives the Peabody for Super PAC Segment

This blog reported last month that comedian Stephen Colbert has been using his wildly popular Comedy Central show, the Colbert Report, to educate his viewers on the Citizens United decision and super PACs. Today we are reporting that the Colbert Report has been given a George Foster Peabody Award at the 71st annual Peabody Awards.

The award is a long honored recognition of distinguished public service by radio, television, and network organizations and individuals without factoring popularity or success of the program.

In a reflection of how Americans continue to feel strongly about the rise of “money politics” in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Peabody award panel stated, “Comedy Central’s ‘The Colbert Report’ won its second Peabody for its deadpan anchor’s ‘Super PAC’ segments lampooning the rise of megabucks politics.” Further commenting, they revealed, “Launching his own Super PAC as a satirical protest against megabucks politics, Colbert mixed cerebral comedy with inspired sight gags, interviews and preposterously funny monologues.”

Maintaining his comedic stance of protest against the Supreme Court’s decision Colbert said in response, “What an honor! I am truly speechless. Luckily, thanks to Citizens United, my money can speak for me.”

The Citizens United decision and the resultant super PAC emergence in the American political process continues to be a hot button topic with many highly respected scholars and public figures landing on both sides of the issue. For a deeper look at the heart of the decision and its impact, be sure to attend the Citizens United forum in Jamaica Plain, Boston on Wednesday April 11. Panelists to discuss the decision and take questions from the audience include State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), President of the New England Legal Foundation Martin Newhouse, constitutional law scholar Professor Lawrence Friedman and WGBH journalist and former Washington Post reporter Ibby Caputo.

March 10, 2012
On Comedians and Super PACs


Earlier this year, Stephen Colbert’s super PAC, raised $1 million. The host of the satirical news show The Colbert Report has been using his show to explain super PACs to his national audience while criticizing this outcome of the Citizens United decision.  Last month, Dahlia Lithwick of Slate praised Colbert for taking on the Citizens United decision with his super PAC.  Jacob Sullum, over at Reason, says both Colbert and Lithwick are misguided.

Colbert isn’t the only comedian and political commentator making news with a super PAC and a million dollars. Bill Maher, the raunchy host of Real Time on HBO, donated $1 million to the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action.  Maher has criticized the result of Citizens United but called the donation “practical.”  Sarah Palin said on Thursday that accepting this money reflected poorly on Obama’s character. (Though Obama himself can’t be directly involved with the super PAC, he has signaled his support for its existence.)  Greta Van Susteren made a similar argument against the super PAC keeping the money.

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