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Now we see the effect of the early start to the 2008 presidential campaign, with the top buzzwords “Obama,” “cleavage,” “YouTube,” “Live Earth,” “surge,” “all-time low,” “subpoena,” “ ’I don’t recall’ ” and “pardon.”

“This disparate collection of buzzwords speaks volumes about today’s electorate,” said GLM President Paul J.J. Payack. “We have an Iraq war strategy, a name, a corporate entity, and a commentary on a female candidate’s ‘neckline’ at the top of the list.”

Further explaining the emotional aspect of buzzwords, Mr. Payack points out that the word “surge” has been in the English-language vocabulary since time immemorial. However, in its new context as an Iraq War strategy, it inspires a set of emotions in many people far beyond the norm.

Record fines

The Federal Election Commission collected civil penalties totaling more than $2.2 million during the first six months of 2007, the second-largest half-year total of any year in FEC history.

In one case, the FEC collected a $750,000 penalty from the conservative Progress for America (PFA) Voter Fund, the third-largest penalty in the commission’s history. Under the terms of the settlement, the PFA did not admit to any wrongdoing, but said it agrees “to register as a political committee if it undertakes any activities similar to those in 2004.”

It was in 2004, at a reported cost of $14 million, that the PFA produced and aired the highly emotional “Ashley’s Story,” a campaign ad that was televised 30,000 times in the four weeks leading up the 2004 presidential election. It showed President Bush hugging 15-year-old Ashley Faulkner, who lost her mother in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

More recently, the PFA produced pro-Iraq-War ads, calling the conflict essential to fighting terrorism.

c John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washington