Colbert guest editorial: Naming rights, state mottoes and the GOP primary + video

Guest ColumnistDecember 22, 2011 

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. 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.

Here’s what happened:

I have what’s called a super PAC — a political action committee that can receive unlimited funds to spend on political speech in unlimited quantities. About three months ago, I heard that local officials in South Carolina were suing the state political parties over who would pay for the upcoming presidential primary. The GOP said they would pay a big chunk of the cost, but insisted the taxpayers pick up the bulk. State and local officials said this private primary should be paid for entirely with party funds. And Gov. Nikki Haley said, “It’s a great day in South Carolina!”

Enter Colbert Super PAC.™ South Carolina has two state mottos. (It’s always good to have a backup, in case one motto goes missing for days at a time with the motto of Argentina.) The first is “Animis opibusque parati” — “Prepared in mind and resources.”

For this all important first-in-the-South primary, the Palmetto State was not prepared in resources, but Colbert Super PAC was.

So I called up the South Carolina GOP and said, “How much cash would you have to raise to keep your promise to counties? Off the record; I’ll never tell a soul.” They said, “$400,000.”

I said, “I can cover that. No strings attached.”

Of course, I can’t offer that kind of no-strings-attached-money without getting something in return. I told them I wanted the naming rights to the primary, and a non-binding referendum on the ballot. If they weren’t prepared to horse trade for these two requests, they should never call me back.

Well, they didn’t call me back. They got on a plane and flew to New York to make the deal. Because money talks, B.S. walks, and $400,000 flies business class.

We hammered out a contract over barbecue. Colbert Super PAC would pay up to $400,000 directly to the state and counties to defray the cost of the election. In return, the primary’s official name would be “The Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Republican Primary.” This name would appear on all press releases, official notices and signage, including the debates. We would finally raise democracy to the same level as the Tostitos™ Fiesta Bowl and Kardashian™ weddings.

Most importantly, the following non-binding referendum would appear on the ballot:

In order to address the issue of Corporate Personhood, the enfranchised People of the Sovereign State of South Carolina declare that:

( ) Corporations are people.

( ) Only people are people.

The GOP agreed to everything. The referendum was immediately requested, approved by the election commission, and even printed on sample and military absentee ballots. I had counted all of my chickens and was just waiting for them to hatch. Then the unthinkable happened — the activist judges of the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that the counties, not the GOP, would be responsible for funding the primary. And, in what I can only see as a personal attack on corporate persons, they ruled that all non-binding referenda be struck from the ballot.

The S.C. Republican Party no longer needed my $400,000, but being Southern gentlemen, they graciously offered to still want it. They would sell me the naming rights, if instead of giving my cash to the counties, I handed it directly to the party. I asked in return that they petition the court to get the referendum back on the ballot. They said no. I offered less money, $200,000, since I was getting only half of our original agreement. They said no.

Desperate, I reached out to the S.C. Democrats, who agreed to file a request to reinstate the referendum. That’s when the S.C. Republican Party withdrew their generous offer to sell me what they weren’t paying for. They told the press that my requests, “were considered but were declined,” because they, “were concerned about the sanctity of the primary election.”

If nothing else good comes from this, we have at least narrowed down the exact value of sanctity — somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000.

I assumed that was the end of the story, but last week I saw that the South Carolina GOP has reneged on funding any part of the primary, save for the legal minimum percentage of candidate filing fees, leaving the financially strapped counties on the hook for $500,000. That’s money that counties need for emergency services, infrastructure repair, and to complete the wall to keep out North Carolinians. Once again, our first-in-the-South primary is in jeopardy.

Which brings us to South Carolina’s other motto: “Dum spiro spero” — “While I breathe, I hope.” Well, South Carolina counties, you can stop breathing now — your hopes have been answered.

Colbert Super PAC will cover the counties’ $500,000 shortfall. In return, I ask for only two things: that you support the Democrats’ petition to get my referendum back on the ballot, and that you grant me the pre-negotiated naming rights, which, I think we can all agree, you now own. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “You paid for that microphone!”

The counties need the money, and Colbert Super PAC wants to give it to you; call it a Christmas Miracle. I’ve already filled out the check, and to prove it’s no joke, I’ve written “No Joke” in the memo line. I’m going to be home in South Carolina over the holidays, so just give me a call. Both state parties have my contact info.

Let’s put this late unpleasantness behind us and, in 2012, hold the greatest primary of all time.

On Jan. 21, together, we can Make a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.™

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Mr. Colbert, a comedian and S.C. native, is host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”

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