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Report: Political Ad Rates Soared

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WASHINGTON -- Special interest groups that flooded the airwaves with TV commercials before Election Day paid a stiff price as they attempted to influence the presidential election and other contests, according to a new report on political ad spending.

The report also noted that federal law requires TV stations to offer candidates their cheapest rates for ads, but they routinely wound up charging more -- about two-thirds more than those rates -- because they couldn't guarantee candidates those ads would stay in desirable time slots unless the candidates paid premium rates.

The fast-rising expenditures for political ads are related to several factors, including the robust economy of the late 1990s, rapid growth of unregulated soft money and a sharp increase in issue ads, said Paul Taylor, executive director of the Alliance for Better Campaigns. The group was releasing its report on Tuesday.

Political candidates and groups spent more than $770 million on political television ads in 2000, Taylor said, saying some Wall Street analysts place the number closer to $1 billion. That would be twice the amount spent in 1996 and five times the amount spent in 1980, adjusting for inflation, Taylor said.

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