Despite campaign-finance reform that kicks in after the election this year,
it remains to be seen how big a dent it will make in broadcasters' political money
trough. The reform legislation limits so-called soft money that can be spent on
campaigns by the national parties.
One expert on the subject, Jan Baran, a senior partner in law firm
Wiley, Rein & Fielding LLP, thinks the impact will be minimal.
Speaking at the Television Bureau of Advertising Forecast Conference in New York
Thursday, Baran told attendees there is wiggle room in the reform bill that
allows the national parties to "spin off" their soft-money operations to
affiliated groups at the state level, where, in many cases, there are no limits on
spending. He did note, however, that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and several other
reform-minded politicians are trying to thwart such opportunities through
Still, Baran believes there will be "at least as much money" spent on TV ads
in 2004 as there was in 2000, when roughly $605 million was spent. "The money
will get raised and spent in various ways," he said.