In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick examines the impact that Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC is having on public perception of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which establishes that "corporate personhood" means that corporations can make unlimited contributions to political campaigns. Dahlia implies that the Court, which has always maintained an aloofness from public life (no cameras, no press office) is smarting under Colbert's withering sarcasm, and that people are responding as well. For example, Colbert's SuperPAC backed Herman Cain (not a candidate) in the South Carolina race, and the voters put him ahead of Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, and Michele Bachmann.
Then last June, like a winking, eyebrow-wagging Mr. Smith, Colbert went to Washington and testified before the FEC, which granted him permission to launch his super PAC (over the objections of his parent company Viacom) and accept unlimited contributions from his fans so he might sway elections. (He tweeted before his FEC appearance that PAC stands for "Plastic And/Or Cash.") In recent weeks, Colbert has run several truly insane attack ads (including one accusing Mitt Romney of being a serial killer). Then, with perfect comedic pitch, Colbert handed off control of his super PAC to Jon Stewart (lampooning the FEC rules about coordination between “independent PACS” and candidates with a one-page legal document and a Vulcan mind meld). Colbert then managed to throw his support to non-candidate Herman Cain in the South Carolina primary, placing higher on the ballot than Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, and Michele Bachmann.
The line between entertainment and the court blurred even further late last month when Colbert had former Justice John Paul Stevens on his show to discuss his dissent in Citizens United. When a 91-year-old former justice is patiently explaining to a comedian that corporations are not people, it’s clear that everything about the majority opinion has been reduced to a punch line.