For reform-minded groups such as the Alliance for Better Campaigns, arguments like Jaekel's hold little sway--especially in light of the record spending in the 2000 election. According to figures released by the Federal Elections Commission late last month, Minnesota's U.S. Senate race was the third most expensive in the nation, with candidates spending $27 million. "The amount of inflation has been incredible, and even incumbents have gotten fed up with it," Hillsman says. But, the adman observes, other entrenched interests besides the television industry would be happy to see the status quo endure: "The truth is, political consultants are complicit in this because they get a cut on ad sales, too. It's just totally sordid the way the system works, and it gets worse and worse every single cycle. But not too many people know about it, and fewer care."