COLUMBIA, S.C. — Comedian Stephen Colbert tried yet again to get his name on South Carolina's presidential primary ballot – only this time he wanted to sponsor the Republican contest.
GOP officials in the state said they met with Colbert several times this fall to discuss a potential sponsorship of the first-in-the-South Republican primary. Colbert offered more than $100,000 to name the contest the "The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary."
The Republican Party has been scrambling to raise nearly $800,000 needed for the primary, but they have said they will be able to do it. Also, several counties sued challenging the state's right to hold the primary at all, but last month the state Supreme Court green-lighted the balloting. GOP officials said that decision ended discussions with Colbert.
"Stephen Colbert, the world's most famous living South Carolinian, approached the party with a sponsorship opportunity," executive director Matt Moore said. "The party respectfully declined. We wish Mr. Colbert nothing but the best."
Colbert also sought naming rights for a debate several days before the Jan. 21 primary, but Fox News Channel holds the exclusive rights.
In 2008, Colbert, who is from Charleston and plays a conservative TV pundit on "The Colbert Report," announced his candidacy for both of South Carolina's presidential primaries. Democrats squashed his bid, and he didn't follow through on his bid to run as a Republican.
This year, he formed Colbert Super PAC, a type of political action committee that allows him to raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals. The Federal Election Commission said this summer Colbert could use his show to raise money for the group. It had posted no fundraising as of its June 30 FEC filing.
Through his PAC, the comedian has kept a high profile in Iowa, another early voting state. Colbert ran television ads there encouraging voters to write in "Rick Parry" – an intentional misspelling of the Texas governor's name – during a straw poll for Republican presidential candidates.
Colbert did not respond to an email message. In a statement Tuesday, the comedian said he would be hosting the "Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Debate" in January: "It's going to be a classy affair. Shrimp cocktail, the works."
Colbert also said he was working with state Democrats in South Carolina to push the state's Supreme Court to allow a question on "corporate personhood" on the January ballot. Colbert has seized on the issue after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling eased restrictions on campaign spending by corporations and said businesses deserve the same freedom of speech individuals enjoy.
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP