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Stephen Colbert is running for president. And yes, it’s a joke. The faux pundit and host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” merely wants to run in his native state of South Carolina as a “favorite son,” and currently, he’s polling in the double digits against Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. His bid for the presidency provides some much-needed comic relief in a crowded field of candidates, but the legal issues surrounding Colbert’s presidential bid aren’t exactly laughable. Kenneth Gross, an election law expert at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, points out that Comedy Central is owned by Viacom, and by providing Colbert with something as simple as air time, the network could be making an illegal campaign contribution. Comedy Central has hired Wiley Rein to advise Colbert on how to avoid running afoul of the Federal Election Commission. Jan Baran heads the election law practice there, but, alas, he, Comedy Central, and Colbert declined to comment. Gross doubts the FEC will want to get involved at this stage in the game. But if Colbert, who is running as a Democrat and as a Republican, gets on the ballot and starts taking votes from other candidates, things could change. “You hate to sound like a skunk at the garden party if the whole thing’s a spoof,” says Gross. “But again, if he’s getting votes�which means he’s taking votes from somebody else�people’s sense of humor starts to fade away.”
Attila Berry can be contacted at [email protected].

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