Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert (“The Colbert Report”) is offering to pay $500K to help subsidize South Carolina’s first-in-the-South GOP presidential primary, as state officials struggle to pay for it. The Charleston, SC native wrote in an op-ed in The State newspaper that Colbert Super PAC — a type of political action committee that allows him to raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals — will bridge the gap after state Republicans refused to contribute anything above $180,000 collected in candidates’ filing fees.
The state Election Commission, which administers South Carolina’s voting, has said it has $1 million on hand for the primary but is short of the total $1.5 million price tag. Spokesman Chris Whitmire told The AP the Commission has notified budget officials the state may need to seek permission to run a deficit to fund the primary.
Colbert wrote that he offered make up that $500,000 funding gap after state Republicans ultimately turned down his proposal to pay them $400,000 if they’d name the contest after him. Party officials have confirmed meeting with Colbert earlier this year to discuss a deal that would have renamed the balloting “The Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Republican Primary” in exchange for a check from the comedian.
Colbert, who plays a mock conservative pundit on his TV show says he also wanted to put a referendum question about “corporate personhood” on the January ballot. He seized on the issue after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling eased restrictions on campaign spend by corporations (the Citizens United case). The South Carolina Supreme Court rained on that parade by eliminating all referendum questions from the ballot. Colbert in 2007 attempted to run for president, but only in South Carolina
“As a proud son of South Carolina I must address recent unsubstantiated rumors published in The State that I, Stephen Colbert, tried to buy the naming rights to the 2012 Republican primary,” he wrote. “First, never trust anything in a newspaper — except this column, and possibly ‘Mallard Filmore.’ And second, these outrageous and scurrilous rumors border on libel, even if they are, technically, true. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Ultimately rebuffed by the GOP, Colbert says he started working with Democrats to get the issue on the ballot, but state Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said that effort also fell through.
State GOP executive director Matt Moore said party officials were skeptical of Colbert from the beginning but entertained his early communications before turning him down.
“Despite our repeatedly saying ‘no,’ Stephen Colbert, the comedian, seems intent on being involved,” Moore told The AP. “It’s exactly why we were wary in the first place.”
Regardless of the party’s position, it would be up to the state whether to accept or reject any offer. Whitmire told The AP the question of whether a PAC can fund a South Carolina primary is a new one. If the Election Commission were presented with the money and decided to accept it, he said, they would have to ask state Attorney General Alan Wilson to decide if state law permits a political action committee to fund a primary.