Old Time Senators seem fearful of opening their campaign books to voters and for too long have tried to unreasonably hide them from the public. While candidates for the Presidency and House of Representatives file electronically with the Federal Election Commission, members of the US Senate do not. As we’ve written previously, they are still in the dark ages .
As the Federal Elections Commission notes, this means “it can take as long as 30 days before some detailed data filed on paper is available in the Commission’s database.” They have since 2000 requested that Senate candidates file with them electronically but the US Senate has refused to comply, instead having campaigns send paper reports to the Clerk of the Senate, who then forwards them to the FEC to be scanned. Software is obviously available for Senate campaigns to enter data and forward it directly to the FEC since this is what House candidates use.
But that’s only half the story. As Common Cause notes:
The current situation is absurd. Senate campaigns keep their contribution records electronically anyway. What happens next is like a reporting machine designed by the old cartoonist, Rube Goldberg. As it stands now, Senate campaigns take their own electronic records, print them out on paper, ship the paper (cumulatively thousands of pages’ worth) to the Secretary of the Senate, which the Secretary then copies to send to the Federal Election Commission. The FEC then pays six figures of taxpayers’ money to hire a contractor to retype the information into an electronic format!
Senator Russell Feingold (D) on January 9th, 2007 has again filed his “Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. ” It is filed as S-223 . On Jan 11, 2007 Feingold and Republican co-sponsor Thad Cochran in a press release stated that this “commonsense bill to make our electoral system more transparent is long overdue.” We agree.
But we also think the bill doesn’t go far enough. Compared to Washington State’s campaign Disclosure laws it’s rather wimpy because current disclosure for both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate only require quarterly reporting. Quarterly reporting means that US Senators and Representatives file campaign reports on April 15th, July 15th and Oct 15th before a November election, and on Jan. 31st after the election. This is hardly timely and significant disclosure in light of how quickly money can be raised and spent in campaigns. Disclosure forms need to be filed monthly!
Disclosure in a timely fashion of who is donating to whom and how much is essential to voters being able to know who’s trying to get you to vote for who and why. It helps to know whose interests candidates will be representing even though they will tell you the money has no influence on their votes. Like we are all supposed to believe that, right.
Presidential candidates have the option of reporting monthly or quarterly. I think it should all be monthly. We do it in Washington State for all statewide, legislative and local campaigns. It just makes sense.
Current sponsors of S-223 are Senators Allard, Biden, Boxer, Cornyn, Dorgan,Durban,Feinstein, Graham, Grassley, Hutchinson, Kerry, Landrieu, Lieberman, Lugar, McCain, Murkowski,Obama, Reed, Rockefellar, and Salazar.
Hey Washington State voters – where is Murray and Cantwell? Seems a few other Northwest Senators are also missing. Time to send a few e-mails. Go to the links below and ask them to co-sponsor S-223. Tell them you want to see monthly reporting, not quarterly reporting as they have now.
Washington State Senators:
for other Senators go to: