This year, Stephen Colbert, popular comedian and host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” decided to throw his hat in the ring for the 2012 GOP primary. But Colbert, a shrewd satirist, had no intention of winning the race; he sought, instead, to expose the injustice inherent in an election governed by Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a landmark Supreme Court case that gave privately owned corporations the right to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns.
Under Citizens United, Super PAC’s can raise unlimited funds for any candidate as long as they are not “coordinating” with said candidate or anyone from their campaign. But that hasn’t stopped some of this year’s potential nominees from finding ways to milk the ruling for all it’s worth.
Most of the candidates in the GOP primary are backed by Super PAC’s that are run by close associates, former campaign workers or even family members. Though it is hard to imagine that the candidates no longer coordinate with these individuals, as long their relationships remain tacit they can continue to reap the benefits thereof without fear of repercussion.
In an effort to reveal the potential corruption at play here, Colbert decided to follow in the GOP candidates’ footsteps. Before announcing his bid for the presidency, he transferred ownership of his own Super PAC to Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show” and well-known friend of “The Colbert Report,” knowing full-well that as long as he never openly “coordinated” with Stewart in regards to his campaign, there would be no issue with Stewart running ads supporting Colbert and attacking his opponents.
The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC, as it was christened after being transferred to Stewart, went on to shamelessly blast other candidates and zealously endorse Colbert, who wound up getting over 6,000 votes in the South Carolina primary.
Colbert’s faux-campaign succeeded in making a total mockery of the political establishment it parodied. He used the power of his own celebrity and the keen edge of satire to reveal an unsettling trend in American politics: the growing influence of money. Citizens United has turned this year’s primary elections into spending wars—to the candidate with the most funding go the spoils—and if we do not take action soon it could do the same to the general election.
Stewart and Colbert have proven, once again, why many Americans trust their news coverage more than that of major media networks like Fox News or MSNBC. They make it their business to show their audiences the stories that “real” news organizations won’t; and they aren’t shy about calling out overzealous pundits for warping facts to make a point.
American news networks used to be dedicated to delivering the news in as unbiased a format as possible. Though no news broadcast could ever claim to be truly objective, there was a time when many could have argued that they were at least trying. That time has passed. Now anchors on many stations present the news as they see it, offering their own opinions and launching into tirades after every story. And the worst part is that their shows still look and function exactly like regular news shows; their biases, which are not always as clear as one might think, are never acknowledged.
Luckily for us, Stewart and Colbert are there to cut through the convoluted angles and expose the truths that the mainstream media either cannot or will not divulge. They are America’s media police, dutifully monitoring the “real” news to ensure that no half-truth or wholesale lie goes un-ridiculed. On their watch, issues like the Citizens United ruling and its dangerous effects on campaign finance politics will continue get the attention that they are denied elsewhere. Entertainers though they may be, the duo has proven itself an invaluable asset to the American people at a time in our history when truth is hard to come by.