Tag Archives: campaign finance disclosure

Senate Republican Leadership Continues to Block Electronic Filing of Campaign Finance Reports

Republicans who are in the majority in the US Senate and in the leadership continue to block electronic filing of Senate campaign finance reports required by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). US Senate candidates only file quarterly reports. Currently the US Senate reports are the only campaign finance reports on the Federal level not filed electronically with the FEC. They are first filed in paper copies with the US Senate, copied and then transferred to the FEC. This significantly delays by 2-3 weeks or more the public and media being able to get timely reporting of campaign contributions and spending.

Democrats joined by Republicans and Independents continue to try to get the US Senate to join the computer age and file copies electronically with the FEC.  Senator Jon Tester of Montana in February 2015  filed SB 366 – the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. Some 45 Senators have signed on to date – 32 Democrats, 11 Republicans and 2 Independents.

This is not a new issue but Majority Rules wrote about this seven years ago, including “US Senators Still Trying to Figure out Computers and the Internet ” and “An Open Letter to Senator Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell“.  Senator Cantwell has since signed onto this legislation both in this Congressional session and the previous one. Senator Patty Murray for some reason has not. She should.

The Center for Public Integrity in a 2015 post entitled “Senators resist the internet, leave voters in the dark” noted that:

In a throwback to the age of typewriters and snail mail, Senate candidate must still, by law, submit their official campaign finance reports on paper.
A bipartisan bill — known as the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act — would force Senate candidates to file digitally, just as presidential candidates, U.S. House candidates and political action committees have done for nearly a generation.
Paper campaign finance records are more difficult to analyze and aren’t readily available to the public for days after being filed. Digital records are publicly accessible and easily searchable from the moment they’re submitted to FEC officials.

Some Senators have decided to voluntarily file electronically. In the same Center for Public Integrity post it was noted that 20 Senators were listed as also filing their second quarter 2015 reports digitally -16 Democrats, 2 Republicans and 2 Independents.

As GovTrack.us notes:

These reports are important because they list how much money candidates have raised and from which individuals/sources. This transparency in turn can help reveal potential conflicts of interest and indicate which issues an incumbent or potential politician may prioritize while in office. For example, on the presidential race, these numbers have revealed which candidates rely more on Super PACs versus individual donors, or which candidates billionaires have donated to.

The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that the bill would save approximately $500,000 per year through factors such as reduced printing costs.

If your Senator is not a supporter of SB 366 urge them to do so. The public has a right to campaign finance information in a timely manner. In fact while they are at it they really should be doing monthly reporting, not quarterly. Washington State has been doing monthly disclosure by candidates for years and it helps citizens see who is supporting candidates and where money is being spent.

Republicans in US Senate Stop Campaign Disclosure Bill

The last thing Republicans want is to let the public know  where  campaign contributions spent supporting them are coming from.  Voting on a party line vote, US Senate Republicans voted to oppose disclosing corporate contributions and expenditures  being spent to try to put them back in power.  The measure known as the Disclose Act also included disclosure by unions but corporate contributions through PAC’s and outside interest groups are likely to vastly exceed that of unions.

The New York Times  in its print edition misleadingly writes a headline entitled “Senate Democrats Fail to Advance a Campaign Finance Bill, an Obama Priority.” It should have instead been entitled something like “Senate Republicans Stop Passage of Bill to Require Disclosure of Corporate Contributions”. The vote was 59 for and 39 against on a procedural vote to cut off debate. No Republicans voted to end debate and all the Democrats did in an effort to bring the actual bill up for a vote.

The online edition headline says “Small-Business Bill Advances; Campaign Finance Bill Stalls” which is more accurate in terms of what is in the article but the lead sentence repeats the statement that “Senate Democrats failed Thursday to advance campaign finance legislation that would force businesses, unions and others to disclose how they were spending money in political campaigns and where they were getting it.”  The NY Times does a disservice to the public and its readers by failing to upfront attribute the failure to move the bill to the Republicans and their use of Senate rules to block a vote that clearly has a majority of Senators in support. Clearly the Democrats are behind disclosure.

Republicans continue to block passage of almost all legislation in the Senate in an attempt to brand the Democrats as unable to get things done.  Yet it is the Republicans who are cynically stopping action on bills, even on things they previously supported.  It remains bizarre that there are Americans who somehow think returning Republicans to power is going to make things work better. Ever since Obama got elected the Republican strategy  was to oppose anything the Democrats proposed. They were not concerned about putting Americans back to work, they were only motivated by putting themselves back in power.

Republicans have no new answers, they knee jerk oppose taxes of all kind – witness their support of retaining the Bush tax cuts for millionaires despite the fact that this would increase the deficit  because money would have to be borrowed at taxpayer expense to cover these tax breaks.Witness their continued opposition to financial reform despite the fact that financial deregulation and lack of oversight and accountability contributed heavily to our current recession. Witness their opposition to health care reform despite the fact that the system was broken and private insurance companies were raising premiums much faster than inflation to add to their profits.

Democrats have accomplished a lot despite Republican opposition to most of what they’ve done. If  Republicans controlled the White House or the US Senate, imagine who might have nominated for the US Supreme Court. As Robert Creamer wrote on the Huffington Post in August, Democrats have been fighting for the average American and winning the battle against corporate special interests.

Democrats won the battle with Wall Street and the Republicans to rein in the power of the big Wall Street banks. We won the battle to begin holding insurance companies accountable and prevent them from discriminating against people with “pre-existing conditions.” We won the battle to rescue the economy from the death spiral created by Bush administration policies and the recklessness of the big Wall Street banks.

Democrats and Independents who want to keep our country moving forward to solve our pressing problems need to turn out and vote and support the Democratic ticket.  There is no such thing as not taking a position in an election.  If you don’t vote, you are letting others make a decision for you.  In this election Republicans have said they are more inclined to vote than Democrats by a wide margin.  Not voting and opposing this Republican enthusiasm is the same thing as voting for the Republicans.  Every voter has a vote. Use it. Democrats can win if those who want to keep moving America forward just get out and vote. Here in Washington State for most voters it is just filling out and mailing your ballot. Not a lot to ask considering the possible consequences of not voting.

You can go to the King County Democrats web pages to see a list of endorsed candidates and ballot measures.

See also NPI Advocate post for more information on the Disclose Act.