The Work

July 1, 2011 1:56 PM

Caplin & Drysdale Helps Stephen Colbert Form His Super PAC

Posted by Brian Baxter

The Federal Election Commission approved on Thursday a request by comedian and television personality Stephen Colbert to raise money from donors in advance of the 2012 presidential election.

The 5-to-1 vote by FEC commissioners allows Colbert--the eponymous star of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report--to form his own political action committee, which he has dubbed Colbert Super PAC. It also marks the latest chapter in Colbert's satirical campaign against corporate fund-raising in politics in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which allows corporations and labor unions to make unlimited contributions to support candidates.

"Sixty days ago today...a young man petitioned the FEC for permission to form a Super PAC to raise unlimited monies and use them monies to determine the winners of the 2012 elections," Colbert told a throng gathered outside the FEC's headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. "I am a Super PAC and so can you!"

Colbert was represented in his quest for FEC approval by Caplin & Drysdale political law head Trevor Potter and associate Matthew Sanderson. Potter is an election law veteran who previously served as general counsel for John McCain's presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2008.

Colbert has expressed appreciation for his legal team's efforts. "We owe a debt to my lawyers Trevor Potter and Matt Sanderson of the heroic law firm Caplin & Drysdale," he said, according to Washingtonian. "Two names that will go down with the great American duos--Lewis and Clark, Sacco and Vanzetti, Harold and Kumar."

Potter told Washingtonian that he was referred to Colbert earlier this year. He first appeared on The Colbert Report in March to explain some of the legal nuances involved in forming a PAC. At the end of taping the segment, Colbert asked Potter to become his lawyer.

"I essentially had the interview with the client on the air," Potter told Washingtonian. That led to several more appearances on Colbert's show, the latest of which had him preparing his client for FEC testimony. (One of the difficulties Colbert faced was obtaining an exemption from the FEC so that airtime provided to him by Comedy Central and its corporate parent Viacom wouldn't count as a donation to his PAC.)

Potter, who was also assisted on the Colbert matter by Caplin & Drysdale partner Joseph Birkenstock, isn't the first lawyer to appear on The Colbert Report.

The Am Law Daily previously chatted with Cliff Sloan, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, after he appeared on the show in May 2009 to discuss possible Supreme Court nominations. (Sloan is currently representing former presidential candidate John Edwards on federal campaign finance charges.)

Colbert's brother, Edward, a partner at Kenyon & Kenyon in Washington, appeared on The Colbert Report in February 2010 to advise his younger sibling on the tricky IP issues surrounding coverage of the Winter Olympics.

The motto for Colbert's PAC: "Making a better tomorrow, tomorrow."

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I'll send $20 if Stephen Colbert will go "mano a ms.mano" with Zsa Zsa Palin or Bachman.

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