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Political Ad Plan Seeks Money Info

May 4, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Interest groups that air TV commercials meant to influence elections would be forced to say who is paying for them under a proposal advanced Thursday by a member of the Federal Election Commission.

Each year, groups across the political spectrum flood the airwaves with ads praising or criticizing presidential and congressional candidates. But the ads stop short of overtly telling viewers how to vote, so the law does not require them to say how much they are spending or who is paying for them.

``Without any information on these groups it becomes impossible for the public to make informed decisions about the real interests of these groups,″ Karl J. Sandstrom, a Democrat who serves on the six-member commission, wrote in his proposal.

It will be discussed at a commission meeting later this month.

In the last two weeks alone, ads favoring Democrats have been aired by the Sierra Club, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and Handgun Control Inc. Republican-leaning organizations, including such little-known groups as Republicans for Clean Air and Shape the Debate, also regularly take to the airwaves.

None would disclose how much it was spending or who was paying for the ads.

Sandstrom’s proposal would affect a range of groups, including any that takes advantage of a loophole in the tax code that allows organizations to avoid taxes while raising and spending unlimited amounts of money with no disclosure rules. These groups have come to be known as ″527s,″ named after the section of the tax code under which they are created.

The plan also would affect any group that:

_ Raises money by telling donors they were out to influence a federal election.

_ Gets money from political committees including the political parties.

_ Is under the control of a federal candidate or his or her campaign committee.

_ Uses polling or focus group tests to determine whether the ad will affect the outcome of an election.

_ Places ads based on the best way to reach certain voters.

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