Tag Archives: electronic campaign disclosure filing

Lack of Timely Congressional Public Disclosure is an Insult to the Voters

The latest campaign contribution and expenditure figures for Congressional races reported by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) are dated from the end of July 2010 for a report only through June 30, 2010. In an age of electronic and computer nimbleness when news can circulate the globe in a matter of seconds, campaign finance disclosure by candidates running for the US Senate and the House seem to be in the pre-telegraph era.

This antiquated campaign disclosure system hurts the democratic process by denying the public access to campaign spending and contribution information.  It is an insult to the public and benefits special interests trying to obscure and cloud the impact money is having in Congressional races. The public has a right to know who is contributing to candidates and how much is being spent. The current system is a failure for timely disclosure.

And this is not even discussing the most recent insult – the unfettered and unrestricted flow of special interest and corporate dollars flowing into committees and organizations, including those that are filed with the IRS as 501-c-4 organizations that are not required to disclose their donors at all.  This is all the result of the conservative faction put on the US Supreme Court which in their 5 to 4 decision of Citizens United vs the Federal Elections Commission ruled that money and free speech are one and the same.

Current reporting to the FEC by US Senate and House candidates is on a quarterly basis.  Reports are due April 15, July 15, Oct 15, and Jan 31.  There is an additional Pre-Primary and Pre-General Election report. The Pre-General Election report covers Oct 1 -13 and is due Oct 21.

Meanwhile amazingly, Presidential campaigns are required to report monthly as are Party organizations and PAC’s.  Monthly reports are due on the 20th of the following month.

If you haven’t yet figured it out, its Congress who set the reporting requirements for Congress to only report quarterly.  And a further delay is that while the House and Presidential campaigns file directly electronically with the FEC,  the Senate adds additional delay in reporting by first requiring that a PAPER copy be filed with the US Senate which then forwards that to the FEC. Yes the word PAPER is correct. Talk about being behind the times.

Meanwhile here in Washington State  reports for candidates are filed with our Public Disclosure Commission monthly, electronically and the deadline is the 10th of the following month.  This includes races for statewide office like Governor which encompasses obviously the same geographical area as a US Senate race.

Two separate bills are before Congress to increase public disclosure that deserve public support. The first is a perennial bill to require Senate candidates to file electronic copies of their reports. This is Russ Feingold’s bill,  the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. He notes it would save taxpayers $250,000.  As Feingold states,

Under the current paper filing system, the FEC’s detailed coding, which allows for more sophisticated searches and analysis, is completed over a week later for Senate reports than for House reports. This means that the final disclosure reports covering contributions made during the first two weeks of October are often not subject to detailed scrutiny before the election. Detailed campaign expenditure information is never available electronically because the FEC does not enter that information into its databases.

Help urge the US Senate to join the electronic computer era. Send an e-mail to your Senators urging they join the digital revolution in reporting campaign contributions. Click on the link to email Washington State’s Senators:

Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Patty Murray
To e-mail Senators in other states go to the US Senate website.

The other legislation that Republicans have blocked to date is the DISCLOSE Bill.  As noted in a citizen co-sponsor website at http://www.discloseact.com/

The DISCLOSE Act legislation will address seven major points:

1. Enhance Disclaimers

Make CEOs and other leaders take responsibility for their ads.

2. Enhance Disclosures

It is time to follow the money.

3. Prevent Foreign Influence

Foreign countries and entities should not be determining the outcome of our elections.

4. Shareholder/Member Disclosure

We should allow shareholders and members to know where money goes.

5. Prevent Government Contractors from Spending

Taxpayer money should not be spent on political ads.

6. Provide the Lowest Unit Rate for Candidates and Parties

Special interests should not drown out the voices of the people.

7. Tighten Coordination Rules

Corporations should not be able to “sponsor” a candidate

Please also urge your Senatore to pass this bill. The House has already done so.

For previous discussion of these issues see also:

US Senators Still Trying to Figure out Computers and Internet

Republicans in US Senate Stop Campaign Disclosure Bill

Democrats Ask Murray and Cantwell to Support Electronic Filing of Campaign Disclosure

Last night the King County Democrats unanimously passed a resolution asking Washington State’s two Senators to become co-sponsors of  legislation requiring US Senate candidates to join the electronic filing era of campaign disclosure.  Below is the text of the resolution:

Resolution in Support of S 482 requiring electronic filing of campaign disclosure information by U.S. Senate candidates

WHEREAS the U.S. Senate still does not require filing its campaign finance forms electronically; and

WHEREAS this hinders and delays the ability of the public to have timely access to important campaign finance data; and

WHEREAS the transfer of data to electronic form for filing would save taxpayers $250,000 a year according to the Campaign Finance Institute; and

WHEREAS S 482 – the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act has been introduced by Senator Feingold in February 2009 to require that all Senate candidates file designations, statements and reports in electronic form; and

WHEREAS candidates for the House of Representatives, President and Political Action Committees already file electronically; and

WHEREAS 41 other Senators are currently co-sponsors of this legislation; and

WHEREAS Washington State has been a leader in campaign finance disclosure statewide and nationally with the passage of I-276 in 1972; and
WHEREAS Washington State requires electronic filing for all candidates raising over $10,000; and

WHEREAS candidates filing for President who raise over $100,000 are already required to file monthly reports

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the King County Democrats urge Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell to become co-sponsors and work for passage of S 482 in time for next year’s U.S. Senate elections and that they sponsor an amendment requiring monthly reporting as is done for Presidential candidates and in Washington State.

Join with the King County Democrats and urge Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray to co-sponsor S 482 and work for its passage. You can e-mail them here:

Senator Maria Cantwell

Senator Patty Murray

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.