Stephen Colbert is running for president. And, yes, it’s a joke.
The faux pundit and host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” merely wants to run in his native state of South Carolina as a “favorite son.” Threat down “real” contenders: He’s getting double digit support in polls that include Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. (Where have you gone, Dennis Kucinich?...)
Colbert’s bid for the presidency provides some much-needed comic relief in a crowded field of candidates vying for something, anything, to distinguish themselves. But the legal issues surrounding Colbert’s presidential bid aren’t exactly laughable. Kenneth Gross, an election law expert and partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, points out that Comedy Central is owned by Viacom, a publicly traded corporation, and by providing Colbert with something as simple as air time, Comedy Central and Viacom could be making an illegal campaign contribution.
Comedy Central has hired D.C. communications firm Wiley Rein to advise Colbert on how to avoid running afoul of the Federal Election Commission. Jan Baran heads the election law practice there, but, alas, he, Comedy Central, and Colbert would not comment on the issue.
Gross doubts the FEC will want to get involved at this stage in the game. But if Colbert, who is running as a Democrat and as a Republican, gets on the ballot and starts taking votes from other candidates, things could change. “You hate to sound like a skunk at the garden party if the whole thing’s a spoof,” says Gross. “But again if he’s getting votes—which means he’s taking votes from somebody else—people’s sense of humor starts to fade away.”
But for now it’s still pretty funny: