U.S. Senate Still in Dark Ages on Using Computers.

Washington State Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Mike McGavick’s Financial Disclosure forms that were to be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for the first quarter of the year are still not available online. Senator Maria Cantwell’s financial disclosure forms are available at both the FEC’s website and at opensecrets.org .

The forms for the first quarter, ending March 31st were due to be filed by April 15th. Because April 15th fell on a weekend they were actually due on April 14th under FEC rules.

The strange part about this is that McGavick issued a press release about the quarterly report last Monday, a full week ago. I wondered what happened to their filing since I couldn’t find it. A call to the McGavick campaign treasurer confirmed that they had FedExed the disclosure forms overnight on April 14th to arrive on the 15th. The Federal Election Commission said the date of filing is based on the postmark.

Well what happened to the reports? The FEC today (Monday, March 24th) told me that they had just received McGavick’s financial disclosure report from the Secretary of the Senate and that it would be online within 24 to 48 hours.

Why the delay? Well it’s actually the Senate’s fault it seems, not McGavicks. According to the Federal Election Commission, people running for the U.S. Senate don’t file their campaign finance reports directly with the FEC. Instead they file them with the Secretary of the Senate.

And what complicates things further is that unlike in Washington State, where almost all candidates now file their reporting forms electronically, the Senate computer system is not set up to accept electronic filing. So instead candidates must file paper reports. Then the Secretary of the Senate sends them over to the FEC where they are scanned and entered into their computer data base.

What makes this ridiculous is that candidates running for U.S. President don’t first send their disclosure forms to the White House. Also candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives don’t first send them to the Clerk of the House. They send their reports directly to the FEC, filing electronically. Electronic filing with the FEC started in 2000 for all candidates receiving or expecting to receive $25,000 or more. All, that is, except for the U.S. Senate.

The FEC says every year its asks that the Senate change to direct electronic filing with them but it seems that there are literally enough Senators in power from the last century that it hasn’t happened. What happened to McGavick’s forms is reason enough to demand Senators enter the computer age. The public has a right to timely information on candidate finances. The Senate is blocking the public’s right to know.

Maria Cantwell’s first quarter report reported that she has raised a total of $8,621,021, has cash on hand of $5,588,420 and a debt of $2,403,357.

Opensecrets.org reports in their breakdown that only 1% of Cantwells contributions or $200,464 came from PAC’s. In addition she has not given any personal contributions to her campaign.

McGavick’s Dec 31, 2005 disclosure showed that he had raised $1,453,349 and had $955,305 in cash on hand at the end of last year.

McGavick’s campaign confirmed that McGavick reported raising $1,213,584.33 in the first quarter of this year.. Then spent $1,272,593.29, which is more than they raised. They had no debt on the books and $896,261.29 cash on hand.

In addition to McGavick’s disclosure reports not being on line yet, those of Mark Wilson, a Democrat running against Cantwell in the Democratic primary were not available. Wilson reported raising $11, 906 as of Dec 31, 2005. He spent it all except for $152.The FEC said they have not received a paper copy of his first quarter forms from the Senate.

Aaron Dixon, running as a Green Party candidate, did file his forms. He reported raising $11,906 in the first quarter and spent all of it except for $642. His funds came from a total of 4 contributors.

The FEC did say that candidates for the Senate can file a courtesy electronic copy when they file the paper copy. McGavick’s campaign confirmed that they did not do this. It is not required by law but it might make the reports available sooner.

The FEC did a public release of information on the 20th of April and Senator Maria Cantwell’s financial reports were released at that time. Her reports were also posted on the FEC’s website.

What also needs to be changed in the law is the preposterous minimal reporting of once a quarter. Candidates running for state office and state legislature in Washington state have monthly reporting.

With quarterly reporting you only have an April 15th, July 15th, and October 15th quarterly report on one of the most expensive races run in our state. That is certainly not adequate public disclosure and needs to be changed.

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