Hard truth about soft money


That $1 billion pot of political-ad gold everybody keeps talking about for
2004 may be substantially smaller -- like one-half -- if the Supreme Court
upholds the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform bill it is set to hear oral
arguments on next Monday.

At the Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) forecast conference in New York
Thursday, Jan Baran, senior partner in Washington, D.C.-based law firm Wiley
Rein & Fielding LLP, said some $500 million in so-called soft money raised
by political parties -- and now banned by the McCain-Feingold bill -- is at

Most of that money usually goes to TV, Baran said. If the court upholds the
soft-money ban, it would put a huge dent in stations’ political-ad coffers for
2004, although over time, he added, political interests and stations may find
ways to refunnel the funds to TV ads through vehicles other than political

Issue ads could also take a hit, Baran said, to the tune of $100 million.
Such ads are banned by McCain-Feingold in the 60 days leading up to Election

The bill is being challenged on constitutional grounds.

The TVB is predicting 10%-11% growth in local-TV ad sales for 2004, with
14%-15% growth in national spot and 7%-8% growth in local