Senate Bill 223, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, is a simple bill only several sentences long. It would increase accountability of campaign disclosure to the public by requiring that candidates for the US Senate timely file their campaign finance reports electronically the same as candidates for the US House and candidates for President currently do.
Some 40 Senate members are sponsors of this bill, including Senators Hilary Clinton, Russ Feingold, Barack Obama, John F Kerry, Ron Wyden, Barbara Boxer, Joseph R Bidden, Jr, Dianne Feinstein, and Christopher Dodd to name a few. Conspicuously absent are Washington State Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
This week a third attempt to move the bill was stopped by Republican Senator John Ensign who filed an unrelated amendment that had not been discussed with a hearing. The amendment originated from the office of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. It was to require outside organizations filing ethic complaints to disclose their donors. Previously McConnell was involved in holding up the bill and would not disclose who had put a hold on the bill. It seems he had. The amendment needs a separate hearing and is an attempt to stop S 223 from being passed.
Currently in this electronic age, the Senate remains back in the pre-computer and Internet days, filing the campaign paperwork by paper, which then has to be added back to the computer network for filing with the FEC or Federal Elections Commission. The result is a significant time lag in the availability of the public to see the disclosure reports.
As the Campaign Finance Institute reports “All S.223 would do is require Senate candidates and party committees to take information they already are required to collect and disclose, and which they already keep for their own files in electronic format, and send it on to the Secretary of the Senate as an electronic file. Instead, Senate committee now print the same information out on paper and the Federal Election Commission has to keypunch it all over again, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars and months of wasted time.”
Washington state candidates have filed forms electronically for a number of years.
One major reform missing however in the Federal legislation is that currently campaigns reports are only filed every 3 months. Washington State for years has had monthly reporting of campaign finance reports. The public deserves better accountability and more timely disclosure than every 3 months. The Federal reporting should also be monthly.
You can contact Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell by clicking on their names. Send them an e-mail urging that they join S 223 as co-sponsors and help to get this needed disclosure measure passed. Urge they support monthly reporting also.