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.