The S.C. Republican Party asked the State of South Carolina’s Election Commission to approve a ballot question that appears to mock a controversial statement made earlier this year by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

First, here’s the question the SCGOP attempted to place on South Carolina’s “First in the South” presidential primary ballot:

“In order to address the matter of Corporate Personhood, the enfranchised People of the Sovereign State of South Carolina shall decree that: ( ) Corporations are people. ( ) Only people are people.”

The question was prepared by Butch Bowers, an attorney for the party. It was one of four questions the SCGOP hoped to add to the presidential preference primary ballot. The other questions dealt with a federal balanced budget amendment, increased domestic energy production and the controversial National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) lawsuit against Boeing.

What’s the connection between Romney and corporate “personhood?” Well, a few months ago Romney argued during an appearance at the Iowa State Fair that corporations were … well, people.

“Corporations are people, my friend,” Romney said, responding to a heckler.

Obviously, the inclusion of such language on the ballot could have created an interesting dynamic for Romney.

“We almost had a situation where the state simultaneously affirmed that corporations were not people while electing a Republican nominee who stated definitively that they were,” one GOP operative told FITS.

None of the four questions made it onto the ballot thanks to a November 22 S.C. Supreme Court ruling.

In fact according to a source at the State Election Commission, paper ballots for members of the military are being mailed out today in advance of the January 21 election – ballots which included the lone presidential preference question.

Stephen Colbert

A source close to the party says the ballot question originated during negotiations between the SCGOP and a political action committee run by Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert.

Colbert – a Charleston, S.C. native – originally sought naming rights to the primary (i.e. “The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary”) as well as the opportunity to host a debate in South Carolina. The “corporate personhood” ballot question grew out of the party’s negotiations with Colbert, the source says.

S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian has filed a motion asking the Supreme Court to revisit its prior ruling.

“It is important that we all know how the Palmetto State feels about this defining issue,” Harpootlian said, specifically referencing the corporate personhood question.

Meanwhile Democratic operative Tyler Jones said that the whole episode raised questions about the party’s integrity.

“This is what happens when an Amway salesman leads a party full of snake handlers,” Jones said.

Ouch …

SCGOP  executive director Matt Moore said the ballot language had everything to do with its negotiations with Colbert – and nothing to do with Romney.

“The World’s Most Famous Living South Carolinian, Stephen Colbert, contacted the SCGOP and offered a significant sponsorship from his Super PAC,” Moore said. “If there’s one thing Stephen loves more than South Carolina peaches, it’s her politics. However, in this case, the partnership just didn’t fit. We give him a tip of the hat.”