In Which Stephen Colbert Dedicates a Campaign Finance Group's Conference Room With Secret Cash

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 22 2013 9:30 AM

In Which Stephen Colbert Dedicates a Campaign Finance Group's Conference Room With Secret Cash

In his long, fruitless, strangely not-Emmy-winning battle for campaign finance transparency, Stephen Colbert has relied on the work of former FEC commissioner Trevor Potter and his Campaign Legal Center. In December, Cobert bestowed the CLC with a portrait of himself holding the FEC ruling that their work had earned him. Last night, the CLC held a small reception to show off the rest of the TV host's gift: A donation and a plaque, renaming the organization's conference room after Colbert's faux, murdered adviser Ham Rove.

"I just want to say that all of you at the CLC have dedicated your time and talent to ensure that our nation's campaign finance laws are followed to the letter," said Colbert in a taped message. "So I could not be more proud to learn that you have named this conference room in exchange for a sizable donation of untraceable cash."

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After checking out the artifacts in the offices—cartoons, copies of McCain-Feingold signed by the senators and George W. Bush—I spent most of my time at the reception talking to Fred Wertheimer, president of the CFR advocacy group Democracy 21, about the upcoming McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission arguments and the possible demise of contribution limits to parties. The RNC is a party in the case; few people noticed at the time, but even the RNC's "here's what we need to fix" report from Monday called for the end of those limits.

"We have a strong case but a hostile court," he said. Hope rested with Anthony Kennedy, who'd upheld limits in the past. But there wasn't a lot of hope to go around. "We haven't had a new FEC commissioner in four years—no, four years and three months," said Wertheimer. "Obama hasn't made it a priority."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.