INSIDE THE BELTWAY: The public applauded moves to open the books of ’527s,’ but will it matter at the end of the day?

Political consultants and campaign professionals are still trying to make sense of the biggest change to campaign finance laws in two decades, as Congress has decided to shine some light on so-called ’527’ groups.

Political consultants and campaign professionals are still trying to make sense of the biggest change to campaign finance laws in two decades, as Congress has decided to shine some light on so-called ’527’ groups.

Political consultants and campaign professionals are still trying

to make sense of the biggest change to campaign finance laws in two

decades, as Congress has decided to shine some light on so-called ’527’

groups.



The secretive, tax-exempt organizations will now have to register with

the Internal Revenue Service and report their sources for donations

above dollars 200 a year or expenses exceeding dollars 500 annually.



The new law, which overwhelmingly passed both houses of Congress and was

signed by the president on July 1, will give the public more information

about big contributors behind such groups as ’Citizens for Better

Medicare’ and ’Republicans for Clean Air.’



But there is a real fear that 527s, so named for their placement in the

Internal Revenue Code, will morph into other tax-exempt groups with more

restrictions, or for-profit companies. In other words, the reform will

have little impact on the elections. ’My hunch tells me it probably

doesn’t affect things all that much,’ observed veteran GOP media

consultant Paul Curcio of Stevens, Reed, Curcio & Company.



The major advantage of 527 groups, which began to pop up with increased

regularity this campaign cycle, is their ability to cloak the identity

of donors who wish to remain anonymous. Curcio thinks the higher risk

posed to skittish donors under the new law may mean that groups run more

direct mail instead of televised issue advertising campaigns.



But campaign finance reform is something of a conflict of interest for

political consultants, who have thrived on the exponentially increasing

issue-advertising and independent-expenditure campaigns by interest

groups in recent years. As the number of these interest groups has

increased, so has business.



Democratic media guru Jim Margolis of Greer, Margolis, Mitchell, Burns &

Associates agrees that the new reform will cut both ways for political

consultants. Margolis’ firm is in charge of creating issue ads for the

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, among other prominent

groups.



But he says there is a real appetite for changing campaign finance laws

among political professionals. ’I think a lot of us are concerned about

the whole area of issue advertising - that this is really becoming

another tool bag of campaign activities rather than just focusing on the

issue itself,’ Margolis said. ’At the same time, this is the world we

live in and the rules under which we’re playing, and everyone’s trying

to maximize their advantage.’



The world may be a little bit different with the new laws governing

527s, but just how much remains to be seen



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