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Stephen Colbert teaching America about super PACs

at 02:05 PM ET, 01/31/2012

It’s hard to get people interested in the minutae that is campaign finance law. But Stephen Colbert appears to be making headway in his quest to make “super PAC” a household word.
Stephen Colbert, educating. (Grace Beahm - AP)

A 2006 Indiana Unversity study found “The Daily Show” to be as informative as network news. Colbert has taken that a step further — not only reporting the news in a humorous way but creating news to bring attention to an often-overlooked issue.

Searches for “super PAC,” as well as related searches for more information about how super PACs work, have spiked dramatically every time Colbert mentions the independent expenditure groups on his show, a Hitwise analysis finds. Over the past few months “super PAC” has become a more popular search term than regular old “PAC.”

The “Colbert Report” host started his own unlimited fundraising group, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” in hopes of becoming “The President of the United States of South Carolina.”

It’s a joke, of course. But Colbert aired real attack ads in the Palmetto State, and he’s raising real money — over a million dollars, according to his real Federal Election Commission filing. He’s also inspiring viewers to seek out real information about the vagaries of campaign finance law.

How many of those people went on to actually learn something — anything — about super PACs? There’s no way to know. (The Huffington Post has been tracking the various aspects of campaign finance law that Colbert has covered. Search traffic is an imperfect measure.) But what was once an obscure corner of campaign finance law known to only true political nerds is now entering the mainstream — thanks in at least some part to the Colbert Nation.

 
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