Nancy Pelosi Gets In on the Colbert Super PAC Gag

Mutual ironic-hate society continues apace

The irony is so thick you could spread it on toast.

Follow me, if you can: Nancy Pelosi released the above fake-smear ad urging viewers to stop Stephen Colbert from going hog-wild with his shady super PAC money, basically continuing the in-joke that the Colbert Report host started last year when he got approval to start a real, honest-to-god super PAC, which he made a major part of an ongoing series on the Report about the evils of super PACs.

The point, originally, was to showcase the absurdity of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling, which allows anyone with the money and the inclination to create:

A) a corporate entity called a super PAC that can accept unlimited financial support from corporations and unions and then directly support a candidate's political campaign (although the candidate himself can't run or "coordinate with" the super PAC, whatever that means*) and

B) a 501(c)4, basically a nonprofit lobbyist organization that doesn't have to disclose its sources of funding … and can give all its money to the super PAC, thus obscuring the PAC's sources of funding.

In other words, you can indirectly donate to Mitt Romney's campaign by donating to his 501(c)4, which can turn right around and give your money to pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, and your name will not appear on the latter's publicly available donors list.

Believe it or not, this makes for some very funny spots, including this one, in which Buddy Roemer laments that Colbert has used his PAC money to buy a unicorn that transports him to a world of magic.

Colbert (rightly) figured that this paved the way for vast sums of untraceable corporate money in politics and has used his own super PAC to campaign against its own existence. From a creative standpoint, Colbert's ads are leaps and bounds ahead of the traditional campaign fare—wonky and subtle, much like the show.

Pelosi is a big fan of Colbert's, going back to his in-character testimony before Congress on the subject of immigration (Colbert has lovingly fake-attacked Pelosi, as well). Now, it seems the show's always-pointed satire has grown sharp enough for Pelosi to use it in a real political fight—the legislation she mentions at the end of the spot is real ("DISCLOSE" stands for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections). Expect Colbert's PAC—now worth over $1 million, he recently announced—to continue to intrude on reality as the election gets closer and super PACs become subject to more scrutiny. Campaign finance is a weird world, and Pelosi wants to take enough people there to generate some substantial outrage.

To Narnia!

*Bonus for ad wonks: in the linked segment, Jon Stewart drops the price of one of the PAC's spots ($15,000) and the cost of the airtime for five spots on CBS affiliate WCSC in Charleston ($3,600).


Publish date: February 10, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT