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Wife of Convicted GOP Official Hired by Chafee Campaign

But two of those lawmakers weren't in Congress when the program passed. Another opposed the measure.

The chamber has now altered two of those ads -- for freshman Reps. Michael E. Sodrel (Ind.) and Michael G. Fitzpatrick (Pa.) -- and pulled the third, which got the vote of Rep. Steve Chabot (Ohio) wrong.

All three lawmakers are in competitive races this year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seized on the ads, writing letters and calling the TV stations playing them.

The original ads praised the lawmakers, who "supported the Medicare Part D law giving seniors a quality drug plan." That was the same language used for other lawmakers who did, in fact, vote for the law's passage. In the new ads, the word "supports" is used in place of "supported."

Bill Miller, the chamber's political director, said, "If I were to go back in time, I would not have changed the ad one piece. Factually, they didn't change. . . . The change was made for clarity's sake."

He added, "The DCCC believed they could tweak us over it by sending out a press release that was disingenuous."

"This is a show of spectacular incompetence on the part of the chamber," DCCC spokesman Bill Burton said. "They should be thanking us for helping them make more ads more accurate."

FEC to Vote on Issue-Ad Exemption

The Federal Election Commission plans to vote this month on a proposal that would allow lobbying groups to air television and radio commercials about issues pending before Congress right up until Election Day.

The plan would create an exemption in the four-year-old McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which prohibits any broadcast advertisements that mention a candidate for federal office within 60 days of a general election.

The measure pending before the commission would allow grass-roots organizations to use corporate or labor funds to pay for ads within that 60-day period as long as the commercials discuss a live issue in Washington and do not promote or attack a candidate, among other limits.

"It will protect the ability of interest groups across the political spectrum to be heard on issues of national importance without running afoul of campaign finance laws," said FEC Chairman Michael Toner. The vote is scheduled for Aug. 29.

A wide range of lobbying groups, from the AFL-CIO to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has sought an exemption from the rule. But some government watchdog groups oppose the measure.

Staff writer Jeffrey H. Birnbaum contributed to this report.

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