Stephen Colbert has called us losers. He got us (and 999 other fan groups based at universities) to buy his Super Fun Pack, filled it with what seemed like a series of gag items, and then asked us all to solve an extremely complex treasure hunt. If we solved it, we would get him to visit our school. So, even though we weren't exclusively interested in the treasure hunt part of the game, of course we wanted first prize.
The Fun Pack was launched on his show on March 29 in response to an email from Paul Benefiel, who expressed an interest in forming his own PAC at UT Austin. Colbert, himself, had already made a major impact by launching his own Super PAC and using satire to give the U.S. public a civics lesson on how corrupt our campaign finance laws had become.
From the start, the Super Fun Pack was an enigma. On the one hand, it held a series of seemingly random, silly objects that reinforced the idea that The Colbert Report is a comedy show, that its primary goal is to entertain, and that its main demographic is college-aged kids. The fun pack included:
- the FEC filing form & cover letter
- a Super PAC Instruction manual
- an allen wrench
- a Turtles Don't Like Peanut Butter T-shirt
- a dorm room sign
- Colbert Super PAC tube socks
- the Forbes 400 Richest People in America List
- an "Actual Treasure Map...to Actual Treasure"
- a decoder ring
- "Hamlet Rove" (16-ounce personal canned ham adviser with custom stickers)
- an American flag
- a "Trevor, May I?" button
A "Turtles Don't like Peanut Butter" T-shirt is just goofy, right? But, on the other hand, the fun pack included FEC Form 1, the only form necessary for the creation of a Super PAC, as well as a handbook from former FEC chairman and Colbert's personal lawyer, Trevor Potter, guiding us in the completion of the form. This was serious business. Follow these simple steps and you, too, can influence the political process, take unlimited donations, and run political ads. Within weeks, we'd be receiving ominous letters from the FEC and the IRS.
While not all of the groups that received their PAC pack did file paperwork, a lot did. Enough to make the news and to begin to cause a stir. Some of the groups include Texans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, as well as ours, Penn Staters for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and many of the Colbert PAC spawn have continued to make the news.
Meanwhile, as the news media was perplexedly covering the rise of Colbert Super PAC spin-offs, there was that pesky treasure hunt to solve. Certainly, we all wanted to solve it, since it would mean a visit from the man himself at our campuses. But, it turned out that the treasure hunt was bafflingly complex. And, upon reading the official rules, it became evident that it would require physical travel -- something that had not initially occurred to us -- and perhaps therefore more time and energy than we could really devote to what felt a little like a fool's errand. And, despite investing a significant amount of time and energy into it, we seemed to be making little progress. We kept asking ourselves why Colbert would want us to spend so much time on this puzzle? What could be the point? And what was the link between founding a Super PAC in three easy steps and solving a treasure hunt that cost exponentially more time, energy and money? While we were busy puzzling over this question, though, PITT PAC was heading to Illinois to find a fake log. Should you imagine that this was in any way a simple or obvious solution, here's the video of Peter Gwinn explaining how to find the treasure:
The Colbert Report