Supreme Court’s key rulings on campaign finance

A 63-year-old law,and two of its own decisions, that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries on ads that advocate electing or defeating candidates for president or Congress but are produced independently and not coordinated with the candidate’s campaign.

–The prohibition in the McCain-Feingold Act that since 2002 had barred issue-oriented ads paid for by corporations or unions 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.

–The century-old ban on donations by corporations from their treasuries directly to candidates.

–The ability of corporations, unions or individuals to set up political action committees that can contribute directly to candidates but can only accept voluntary contributions from employees, members and others and cannot use money directly from corporate or union treasuries.

–The McCain-Feingold provision that anyone spending money on political ads must disclose the names of contributors. [Read the full article]

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Power company Exelon said Friday that its fourth quarter profit fell 18 percent, as demand for electricity in the U.S. remained soft in the weak economy.

Exelon made $581 million, or 88 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31 compared with profit of $707 million, or $1.07 per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue fell to $4.12 billion from $4.49 billion a year ago.

Exelon, one of the nation’s largest power generators and the biggest operator of nuclear power plants in the U.S., says demand during the quarter continued to be weak at its utilities in the Chicago and Philadelphia areas. It says it also was hurt by a refueling outage at its Three Mile Island operations in Pennsylvania and above-average temperatures in the quarter.

Like other power generators, Exelon has been hurt by two straight years of declining electricity usage because of the recession, with demand from industrial customers down 20 percent alone in 2009. [Read the full article]

Car buying is not like buying a television or other household item. There are many different factors to consider, and the sheer purchase price alone makes it worth spending some time researching before you buy. If 2010 will bring you a new set of wheels, then follow these 10 tips to help ensure you buy a car that you are happy driving and that fits your budget.Start by taking a careful look at your budget.Even if you have a car in mind, determine your budget before venturing onto a dealer’s lot. Using the home budget calculator, assess your monthly bills and what you need to save to determine how much car you can afford. Try not spend more than 20 percent of your monthly household income on all the family’s cars, including the costs to operate them.Consider the total cost of owning the car.Don’t just look at cars whose monthly payment will max out your budget. [Read the full article]

This annual New Year’s column suggests steps readers can take to make the right money tips in the coming year. Here’s hoping you have a safe and prosperous New Year.Seek professional help.Working with a financial planner can help you identify your life goals and a roadmap to reach them. A comprehensive financial plan takes a holistic look at your income and assets, and relates it to these goals.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. has a wealth of consumer-friendly information, including the publication “How to choose a financial planner.”

Bankrate’s “Financial planners: Not just for millionaires anymore” gives additional financial planning and money tips.Rebalance your portfolio.The stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, is up 25 percent for the year. That’s compared with a loss of 37 percent in 2008. [Read the full article]

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