WASHINGTON - The toughened-up political contributions rule approved by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board 10 days ago is a vastly improved package. But there are still loose strings.

The MSRB took a bold and needed step when it trashed the loophole in the rule it proposed on Aug. 30 that would have allowed underwriters to give political gifts to state and local officials as long as they didn't intend to try to win or retain an issuer's bond business.

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