By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Television comedian Stephen Colbert took his political shtick down south on Friday, staging a mock campaign rally in South Carolina, the site of the next Republican presidential primary.
Colbert, who grew up in South Carolina, held a bogus rally on the grounds of the College of Charleston, and urged fans to vote for former Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who also spoke at the rally.
Cain suspended his campaign in December amid allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity, but he remains on the ballot for Saturday's South Carolina primary.
"Anybody who knows me knows that I have believed in the message of Herman Cain for several days now," the Charleston native told the crowd. "I would want you to vote for Herman Cain because Herman Cain is me."
Part of Colbert's fun makes a serious point about the growth of new Super PAC funding organizations that are spending huge amounts on attack ads on candidates. Political action committees, or PACs, are groups with great clout in U.S. politics that are legally separate from candidates. A Supreme Court ruling in 2010 allows corporations and unions to raise unlimited funds to buy ads that encourage or discourage the election of specific candidates.
"Faced with this tragic lack of corporate influence in our government, five courageous, unelected justices of the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the constitutional right to spend unlimited money in political speech," Colbert said.
He was backed by a gospel choir that occasionally chimed in, singing, "Corporations are people," a phrase made famous by Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.
A crowd, comprised mostly of college students, stood in line for up to four hours to get into the event. They held signs that said "Get on the Cain Train" and "Control the bear population" and included a couple of animal rights activists dressed in pig costumes.
"Stephen Colbert make politics more accessible. He makes things real," said Catherine Mueller, 18 of Dallas, Texas.
(Editing by Stacey Joyce)
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