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Money, like water, will find a way

Depending on your view of the BCRA, the New York Times story, Special Interests Unfazed by New Campaign Limits, will either demonstrate that the law is regreatably ineffective or thankfully ineffective -- or perhaps doing what it was supposed to.

The [Club for Growth] is at the forefront of efforts to find a way around rules devised to spare voters a deluge of advertisements, many of them anonymous, generated by unlimited special-interest spending. Other groups say they are using different techniques to adjust to the ban on advertisements bought with soft money 30 days before a primary season.

The efforts underscore the difficulty in trying to limit the influence of special interests, even with the largest overhaul in campaign financing in 30 years.

The new law tries to limit those groups, ushering in a complicated basket of restrictions 30 days before a primary or caucus, beginning in Iowa and moving state by state through the primaries. The restrictions take effect nationwide 60 days before the general election.

In general, organizations in the protected periods may not run broadcast or cable advertising that mentions or depicts candidates if the commercials are financed by unlimited and unregulated "soft money" from corporations or unions. Groups using regulated "hard money" contributions can run advertising without restriction. Parties, particularly, have been curtailed, because they can no longer collect soft money at all.

Because the limits have yet to be tested, it is unclear exactly how they will affect the election, though spots that have already run have drawn complaints.

Special interests accounted for 15 percent, or $1.1 million, of the costs of presidential election advertisements on broadcast television through Dec. 7, according to the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project, a group that tracks such spending. The figures do not include commercials on cable.

While supporters are convinced that the law will work, many campaign strategists and election lawyers say that the ban will not keep special interest organizations off the air and that it may, in fact, make those groups more influential than before, because some can collect soft money while the parties cannot.

Similar efforts by other groups are discussed, as well.