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Election campaign and political law is monitored closely by federal, state and local ordinances—along with various citizens' watchdog groups and the media.

Some of the laws are outdated, due to advances in technology changing the way people, products, services, and even ideologies are now promoted. The Internet and blogging, for example, made a dramatic impact on the side of Democrats in the 2004 presidential election and in the voter turnout.

Technology also came into play four years earlier with the infamous Florida recount situation in the disputed 2000 presidential election between George Bush and Al Gore. That fiasco brought close public and congressional scrutiny into such matters as recounts and absentee voting. Scrutiny in the 2004 election turned to the disputed use of provisional ballots cast on Election Day.

Campaign Finance

In addition to the campaign laws governing voting procedures and lobbying activities, election law also governs policies surrounding presidential campaign debates, campaign finance and citizen contributions, as well as media coverage. This body of law is administered and enforced by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). And loopholes abound.

Over the years, several statues and acts (such as the Federal Election Campaign Act) have been passed in order to better govern campaign finance matters. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) has been the most comprehensive revision of federal campaign finance laws since Watergate.

Much of the campaign finance law deals with the circumstances and kinds of gifts permissible as corporate contributions to federal candidates. The law gets a little sticky when it tries to describe in-kind corporate contributions or expenditures made by media outlets owned or controlled by any political party, committee or candidate (in this instance, it specifies expenditures be in the form of a bona fide news account that is part of general campaign-related news giving equal coverage to all candidates).

But the public and congress are clamoring for further reform, and several proposals are on the table as of 2005. The right to free speech, together with the need to retain democratic values, has come into play with the phenomenon of the Internet's role in the 2004 presidential campaign and election. When it comes to fitting the Internet neatly together with campaign finance law, the headline comparisons aptly read: square pegs and round holes. There's something for all soapbox voices to proclaim and everyone else to watch in the next few years as the law is revisited and reshaped for modern times.

Law firms represent political candidates and elected officials, political committees, client organizations seeking reform of election law and challengers to state and congressional redistricting plans.

By Kathleen Goolsby           

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