Tales from the Trail

Colbert’s not giving up on S.C. primary

December 22, 2011

 

Comedian Stephen Colbert has not given up on the primary in South Carolina.

The cable television talk show host tried and failed to get on the ballot to run in his home state’s primary back in 2008. This year, he has been offering to buy naming rights for the Jan. 21 primary, first by negotiating with the South Carolina Republican Party, then the state Democrats, and now by offering to have his Super PAC cover a $500,000 shortfall that South Carolina counties face in paying for the vote. 

“The counties need the money, and Colbert Super PAC wants to give it to you; call it a Christmas Miracle. I’ve already filled out the check, and to prove it’s no joke, I’ve written ‘No Joke’ in the memo line. I’m going to be home in South Carolina over the holidays, so just give me a call. Both state parties have my contact info,” he wrote in an editorial in South Carolina’s “The State” newspaper on Thursday.

“Let’s put this late unpleasantness behind us and, in 2012, hold the greatest primary of all time.”

After learning that the South Carolina Republicans and local officials were squabbling over who would pay for the Jan. 21 primary, Colbert said he had reached an agreement with the state Republican party earlier this year in which his Super PAC would pay up to $400,000 directly to South Carolina and its counties to defray the cost of the election. In return, the primary’s official name would be “The Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Republican Primary.”

“We hammered out the contract over barbecue,” Colbert wrote.

Colbert created his Super PAC this year to mock a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made it easier for corporations to pour money into political campaigns. Super PACs are amped-up political action committees created after that ruling. Federal election officials approved Colbert’s Super PAC in June, and donations began to pour in.

He said the state also agreed to include this non-binding referendum on the ballot:

“In order to address the issue of Corporate Personhood, the enfranchised People of the Sovereign State of South Carolina declare that:
( ) Corporations are people.
( ) Only people are people.”

Colbert said his plan was ready to go forward until “activist judges” stepped in to stop it. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the counties, not the party, would be responsible for paying for the primary. The court also ruled that all non-binding referenda had to be removed from the ballot.

Colbert said talks continued with the state party over plans including still selling them the naming rights or whether the GOP would petition to get his referendum back on the ballot. When that failed, he said he reached out to the state Democrats, who agreed to seek to reinstate the referendum. At that point, the state Republicans declined Colbert’s money because they “were concerned about the sanctity of the primary election.”

“If nothing else good comes from this, we have at least narrowed down the exact value of sanctity — somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000,” Colbert wrote.

Colbert wrote that he thought the issue was dead, until learning that South Carolina’s Republican party had reneged on almost all funding for the primary, which prompted him to offer to cover the counties’ $500,000 shortfall.

Officials at the South Carolina Republican and Democratic parties were not immediately available to comment on Colbert’s editorial.

Picture credit: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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