Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Somehow Made It Funny to Discuss Campaign Spending

August 6th 2015

Thor Benson

Just the word, "campaign finance," will likely put most to sleep. I've said this here before. Few understand how it works, and few are particularly concerned about it. One thing Jon Stewart did on "The Daily Show," and did well, was educate people on this topic in a funny, accessible way when no one else was covering it.

He often highlighted the topic with Stephen Colbert on "The Colbert Report," and Stephen Colbert even won a Peabody Award for his segments on Super PACs.

Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, Colbert was able to set up a super PAC. A super PAC collects money from its members to fund campaigns for or against certain politicians or legislation. Because of the complex and opaque system around super PACS and campaign finance, Colbert was able to start a corporation called the "Colbert Super PAC SHH Institute" that could accept unlimited donations and direct them to the super PAC, all without revealing who had donated the money in the first place.

When Colbert decided to run for "president of South Carolina," he then transferred his super PAC to Jon Stewart. This is the kind of practice that concerns politicians like Bernie Sanders, who believe this is the way the mega rich are controlling national elections behind closed doors. Colbert and Stewart did it in front of the camera.

The brilliance behind the way Colbert and Stewart highlighted the concerns over campaign finance is the same brilliance behind how they made so many mundane topics interesting. They utilized showmanship and absurdity, and they broke the topics down to the basics so the average Joe could learn about how money influences politics without getting overwhelmed or bored. The fact they chose to cover the topic at all show Colbert and Stewart knew the main stream media wasn't going to bother and that someone had to do it, so why not make it hilarious? It's a tradition they clearly passed on to John Oliver, who is now talking about things no one else on television and covering through the lens of comedy.