'Big money' remains part of election scene What others say

Posted: Monday, October 25, 2004

The money is flowing into U.S. elections like never before, despite new federal laws designed to take "big money" out of the equation.

The Center for Responsive Politics estimates spending on the 2004 presidential and congressional elections will reach $3.9 billion, the highest ever. That number tops the $3 billion spent on federal elections in 2000, the nonpartisan group says.

The presidential race including the spending by all candidates, political parties and advocacy groups is expected to cost a record-shattering $1.2 billion or more, the center says.

The center says campaign finance law changes are the biggest reason for the jumps. They raised contribution limits for individuals and banned unlimited "soft money" contributions to the national political parties.

Ironically, the much-heralded McCain-Feingold

campaign finance reform law of 2002 was supposed to take the big money out of federal elections. But, while it banned "soft money" contributions by businesses and unions to political parties, it created another loophole that permitted the same type of contributions.

Groups independent of political parties, known as "527s" because they derive from Section 527 of the

federal tax code, can accept unlimited money from various quarters.

The loophole has made such groups as Moveon.org and the Swift Vets for Truth famous for their controversial ads.

The Federal Elections Commission refused to rein in the groups. Legislation to restrict them is pending but won't affect this election.

Meanwhile, the money mounts.

Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville - Oct. 24

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