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FEC considers new rules for political TV ads

Scott Tong Aug 28, 2006

SCOTT JAGOW: Tomorrow in Washington, a fight over big money and campaign ads on television. The question: can corporate and union dollars be spent on political ads just before election day? Right now, the rules say no. But some people don’t like the rules. Marketplace’s Scott Tong has more.

SCOTT TONG: The 2002 campaign finance law known as McCain-Feingold does a lot of things.One is, it bans companies and unions from paying for ads like this, within 60 days of election day:

TV POLITICAL AD: Wayne Allard voted against health insurance for children. Against programs that protect children from abuse.

Here’s the point of the ban on corporate ads, according to Rick Hasen of Loyola Law School in California:

RICK HASEN: There’s the concern about corruption, that corporations might have, and unions as well, might have a lot of money to throw around and they might get some kind of quid pro quo from a member of Congress.

But corporate and labor groups argue the law went too far. Larry Gold of the AFL-CIO says the ban silenced legitimate “issue ads”— TV spots that focus on policy, not candidates.

LARRY GOLD: It’s a matter of being able to exercise free speech rights to influence legislation and public policy.

He wants the Federal Election Commission to relax the ban at its meeting tomorrow. But Craig Holman of Public Citizen doesn’t buy that argument. To him, it’s all an effort to reopen a big-money loophole.

CRAIG HOLMAN: This is a very significant undoing of the McCain-Feingold law.

He says Big Labor and Big Business have fought to bring back the last-minute TV ads ever since Congress banned them.

HOLMAN: As soon as the law was adopted by Congress, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO became lead litigants suing against the law in courts. And they lost there. And now they are asking the FEC to do their bidding for them.

The bigger picture to this battle is the folks trying to limit money in politics may be losing the larger war.Their opposition won a related Supreme Court case recently. And it boasts new allies at the FEC.

And, says Steve Weissman of George Washington University, key McCain-Feingold self-styled “reformers” in Congress have been losing on legislation.

STEVE WEISSMAN: The reform community has been fighting a hold-the-line battle to preserve the gains it received under McCain-Feingold.

In Washington, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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