In an op-ed in The State newspaper today, comedian Stephen Colbert explained his offer to front $400,000 for the South Carolina Republican primary -- in exchange for the naming rights to the contest and a non-binding referendum on the ballot asking whether voters believed a) “corporations are people” or b) “only people are people.”
He wrote that the South Carolina Republican party no longer needed his money after a November Supreme Court decision ruled that counties, not the state party, were responsible for some of the costs of conducting the primary. (Before 2008, the state party paid all costs). The ruling also banned non-binding referenda from the ballot.
But, Colbert wrote, “being Southern gentlemen, [the S.C. GOP] graciously offered to still want” his offer, telling him he could still buy the primary’s naming rights. Colbert said he cut the offer in half to $200,000 but was turned down.
“They told the press that my requests, ‘were considered but were declined,’ because they, ‘were concerned about the sanctity of the primary election.'"
He added, “If nothing else good comes from this, we have at least narrowed down the exact value of sanctity — somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000."
While Colbert withdrew his initial offer, he put $500,000 back on the table after the South Carolina GOP announced last week that it would only allocate $180,000 in filing fees towards funding the primary, instead of the approximately $1 million it had hoped to raise -- putting counties on the line for the rest of the money.
“The counties need the money, and Colbert Super PAC wants to give it to you; call it a Christmas Miracle. I’ve already filled out the check, and to prove it’s no joke, I’ve written “No Joke” in the memo line. I’m going to be home in South Carolina over the holidays, so just give me a call. Both state parties have my contact info,” Colbert wrote.
In an email to NBC News, South Carolina executive director Matt Moore suggested that the party first considered Colbert’s offer as a private gesture. “Stephen Colbert, as a private citizen, called out of the clear blue and made an unsolicited offer to help his home state. We were intrigued and met with him, but also wary. We determined it was not in the State Party's best interests to accept Stephen's offer.
“Despite our repeatedly saying 'no,' Stephen Colbert, the comedian, seems intent on being involved. It's exactly why we were wary in the first place.”