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Florida closes a big loophole in campaign finance laws

Florida lawmakers approved on Friday a measure that will force some shadowy political groups and committees to disclose their contributors and give voters an idea about who is paying for last-minute stealth attack against candidates.

The legislation, which now goes to Gov. Jeb Bush for approval, gives Florida some of the same restrictions that Congress adopted in 2002 for federal campaigns and applies them to candidates for state and local office. ...

One of the biggest changes: The law will force ''committees of continuous existence'' to disclose the source of all contributors that give more than $250 in a year.

A quirk of Florida law, CCE's were first set up as a way to let unions and professional groups collect money from members to then give to candidates. CCE's were not required to disclose the names of their members.

In the past four years, legislators started using CCE's as a way to bankroll leadership bids. Between 1999 and the end of 2003, CCE's set up by or controlled by state legislators collected more than $3 million. But many legislators shielded from state elections officials the identities of those who contributed nearly $1.27 million. -- Voters to learn who gave cash (Miami Herald)