NBC News: How Stephen Colbert Taught Jeb Bush To Run For President


Live on his late night show, Colbert discussed the plans with his lawyer, Trevor Potter. Potter instructed him that Stewart could run the super PAC as long as the two men didn't "coordinate," adding that "being business partners does not count as coordination."

Potter knew what he was talking about -- he's a former chair of the Federal Election Commission. ...

"Colbert foreshadowed the idea that someone could control a super PAC and then when they decide to explore becoming a candidate then turn it over to someone like protégé Jon Stewart and the whole wink and nod coordination," Potter told NBC News. ...

"These are people who are actively running, they just haven't announced it," Potter said.

Potter notes that one difference from Colbert's mock strategy is that Bush is engaging in campaign-like activity with a super PAC, such as hiring staff and traveling to critical nominating states. Those actions have historically triggered the application of campaign finance restrictions, including stringent fundraising limits of $2,700 per individual. (Remember, super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money.)

"The difference is one in the same breath: I'm in it for the nomination and later going to claim [that I'm] independent," Potter said.

Potter also notes that Bush is not alone. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is engaged in the same activity. While he didn't set up a super PAC, Walker created a 527 group, which is different because it registers with the IRS and not the FEC. But it can also accept unlimited campaign contributions.

Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, said Bush and possibly Walker are wading in uncharted territory.

"We've never before seen a prospective presidential candidate stockpile unlimited presidential cash that was then used in the actual campaign cycle," he said.

Ryan said the Federal Election Committee should be investigating if Bush and Walker are using their money for activities that would qualify them as candidates who are "testing the waters" - a legal term that activates a whole host of restrictions, including campaign fundraising limits.

"Were they raising and spending money to 'test the waters?'" Ryan asked. "At the end of the day, unless you can examine the financial records of the organizations, it's impossible to state definitely that they are breaking the law." ...

To read the full story at NBC News, click here.