Politics

Two FEC Commissioners Are In A Public Fight About This Daily Show Segment

CREDIT: Screenshot via Comedy Central

FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel on "The Daily Show."

Sometimes what happens on comedy shows to mock the absurdity of government makes its way back into those government institutions. That’s essentially what happened at the Federal Election Commission on this week, when commissioners got up in arms about Chairwoman Ann Ravel admitting to The Daily Show that her agency was about as useless as “men’s nipples.”

Her critique of the agency didn’t go over very well. FEC Commissioner Caroline C. Hunter dug into her colleague over the interview at a public meeting on Tuesday. Center for Public Integrity Reporter Dave Levinthal tweeted some of the back-and-forth between the commissioners.

Ravel seemed unfazed by the critique.

The chairwoman invited The Daily Show to the FEC to talk about some of the ways presidential candidates are openly flouting campaign law. The segment aired last Thursday. They cited the recent dispute over the “Carly for America” Super PAC, which simply filed new paperwork after the FEC tried to crack down on it for coordinating with the campaign. The new paperwork didn’t change the name, insisting “CARLY” was an acronym, not a reference to presidential candidate and former HP executive Carly Fiorina.

In the segment, Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper mocked the agency’s inability to crack down on Super PACs, making inspirational posters to hang on the wall and calling the agency “gutless” and “toothless.” They also cited the agency abysmal rankings in government employee satisfaction surveys.


Indeed, the ability to regulate campaign finance has become much more difficult after the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC, which found that money was equated with free speech, and they could not restrict the amount of money outside groups spent on elections so long as those groups didn’t directly coordinate with the campaigns. However, these rules are often openly disregarded by the candidates and PACs, perhaps because — as Ravel pointed out — there’s little the FEC can do to stop them.

This also isn’t the first time that a fake news show has had an impact on the real world. John Oliver’s HBO show Last Week Tonight inspired a flood of comments to the Federal Communications Commission over its net neutrality rules, and the chairman of that agency publicly complained about the comedian calling him a “dingo” on his show.