In an interview with Super Lawyers Magazine
, Caplin & Drysdale's Trevor Potter
discussed his appearances on The Colbert Report
how the show was able to educate the public on campaign finance law and Super PACs. Mr. Potter is featured on pages 6, 7, and 13 of the magazine. For the complete article, please visit Super Lawyers Magazine's website
Excerpt taken from the article.
Q: The episodes were hilarious, but what was their critical message?
A: He did a great job educating people that our campaign finance system has essentially fallen apart and now makes no sense. I had a lawyer in Washington stop me on the street after I'd done one of these episodes and say, "You know, I did not understand Super PACs until last night." I think that there was this buzz in the papers and the phrase "Super PACs" and so forth, and people didn't really understand how much the system had changed until Stephen could illustrate it by walking through the questions that a PAC creator and funder would actually ask. There was a fascinating study out of Penn this past summer. [Researchers interviewed three groups of people: people who watched the nightly news on TV, people who got their news primarily from major national newspapers, and people who got their news from Colbert. They asked all three groups the same questions about how campaign finance worked. Hands down, the people who got their news from Colbert understood the system better.
Q: So big money in politics is a big problem. How do we fix it?
A: I'm not one of those people who says that we're spending too much on campaigns. It isn't that the amount of money is too large, but I think the dominance in the system of a handful of major donors, and therefore the lack of participation by average voters, is the problem—the figures that show that 80 percent of Super PAC money comes from under 200 individuals. It is becoming a smaller and smaller closed circle. There was an article recently in the Times saying that the Republican billionaire super donors were hoping to avoid a nasty primary in 2016 and their goal was to whittle the field down to one. When [CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.] Sheldon Adelson announces that he will see potential candidates in Las Vegas, everyone gets on a plane and goes to what the press calls "The Sheldon Adelson Primary." It's a very odd development for American democracy.