Stephen Colbert is Right to Lampoon Our Campaign Finance System (And So Can You!)

14 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2012 Last revised: 24 Oct 2013

Date Written: October 23, 2013


This Article is an edited transcript of a presentation I gave at the University of St. Thomas Journal of Law & Public Policy’s symposium on Citizens United on March 30, 2012 (which will be published in that journal this fall). Building on the brilliant satire of the post-Citizens United, Super PAC world by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, I argue that our current campaign-finance regime is indeed unworkable and unstable. We have now the odd situation whereby independent political speech is unbridled and unrestricted for the most part -- which is what the First Amendment demands -- while candidates and parties are heavily restricted and heavily regulated. But my end-game vision is different than the comedians': At some point, our system will crack under the weight of politicians' bristling at their competitive disadvantage, leading to individual contribution limits being raised or eliminated in exchange for greater disclosure for the really big donors.

Keywords: campaign finance, BCRA, McCain-Feingold, First Amendment, Citizens United, Super PACs,, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart

Suggested Citation

Shapiro, Ilya, Stephen Colbert is Right to Lampoon Our Campaign Finance System (And So Can You!) (October 23, 2013). 4 University of St. Thomas J.L. Pub. Pol'y 317 (Spring 2012), Available at SSRN:

Ilya Shapiro (Contact Author)

Manhattan Institute ( email )

52 Vanderbilt Ave.
New York, NY 10017
United States
212-599-7000 (Phone)


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