- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Two groups yesterday asked to be exempted from the nation's new campaign finance law as elected officials solicited advice on how to enforce the restrictions on political advertisements.
The law, due to take effect after the Nov. 5 elections, will bar many groups from airing ads identifying federal candidates within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election.
The Sierra Club Foundation and the Alliance for Justice an association of civil-rights, environmental, mental health, consumer, women's and children's advocacy groups have joined forces to ask the Federal Election Commission to exempt organizations like theirs.
They made the request in written comments to the commission on its proposal to enforce the new ad restrictions.
Donald McGahn, an attorney for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told the commissioners that constitutional free-speech issues must be foremost in their minds as they write the rules.
"This affects everyone up and down the ticket," Mr. McGahn said. "This affects every campaign in America."
The law's backers say many groups have been using phony "issue ads" to get around a ban on the use of corporate or union money to influence federal elections. Such ads mention a federal candidate but do not directly call for his or her election or defeat.
The Alliance for Justice and the Sierra Club Foundation say the new ad restrictions shouldn't apply to public charities and private foundations airing lobbying ads that urge viewers to contact their members of Congress on key issues at election time.
Campaigns and political action committees, funded by limited contributions, still can air ads mentioning federal candidates close to elections but will face tougher disclosure standards under the new law.
The political ad rules are among the most contentious features of the law, which also bans national party committees from spending corporate and union donations.
The National Rifle Association, AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among those suing to try to overturn the law, arguing it violates free-speech rights.

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