Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert is shutting down his super-PAC.
The host of “The Colbert Report” posted a letter on his web site Monday night announcing the end of his Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow super PAC.
Colbert’s super PAC spent more than $460,000 during the 2012 cycle, with $79,000 going to independent expenditures. The group still had more than $766,000 left in the bank in mid-October, according to the FEC.
On his show Monday night, Colbert told his lawyer and former Federal Election Commission Chair Trevor Potter, “I took money from some scary guys… And I just want to get out of the game, I want to get out of the super-PAC business.”
Colbert launched the super PAC in 2011 to draw attention to the organizations that dominated the 2012 cycle.
The super PACs came into force after the Supreme Court struck down congressional restrictions on campaign finance in the Citizens United decision. The PACs can take unlimited donations, and many do not have to reveal their donors. They are not allowed to coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.
In a release, the comedian joked that “Ham Rove,” a fictional character parodying GOP operative Karl Rove, had died, necessitating the end of the super PAC. “Due to Ham Rove’s timely passing, I am announcing that Colbert Super PAC is shutting down effective immediately,” Colbert wrote.
“During this time of mourning, we ask that you respect our privacy, and more importantly, the privacy of our money. It wishes to stay out of the public eye, so please don't go trying to find it. Rest assured, you won't. We have a really good lawyer."
In discussing the end of his super-PAC on Monday night, Colbert criticized murky campaign finance laws by illustrating how someone could shift funds from a super-PAC to an untraceable non-profit account.
“Can I somehow give the money to myself and thereby hide it from all eyes and use it the way that I wish?” Colbert asked Potter during the show.
Potter explained that he could. In addition to his super-PAC, Colbert also has a non-profit 501(c)4 fund-raising vehicle — the Colbert PAC SHH — which is not required to disclose its donors.
By writing a check from the super-PAC to the 501(c)4 and including an "agency letter" telling the (c)4 organization exactly what do with the money, Potter said the new income wouldn't show up on the non-profit's tax return. That means the money would effectively be untraceable when spent.
In order to keep prying eyes from Colbert PAC SHH's returns, Potter recommended that Colbert set up another non-profit account. Money could be moved from the first non-profit to the second to keep the transactions secret.
Because the super-PAC's donation to the 501(c)4 does not appear as income, Potter explained, the money never exists in the eyes of the IRS, even when it is transferred to the new account.
This story was updated at 3:30 p.m.