Tag Archives: Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act

Senate Republican Leadership Continues to Block Electronic Filing of Campaign Finance Reports

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.

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

An Open Letter to Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell

Dear Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell:

Thirty-seven Senators currently are co-sponsors of S 482 – the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. The bill requires candidates for US Senate “to file designations, statements and reports for campaign financing in electronic form.”

Both candidates for the US House of Representatives and for President file electronically. The Senate should join them in using the miracle of computers and electronic transmission of data.

I am surprised that you are not a co-sponsor of this bill and urge you to join as a co-sponsor. Washington State was a leader in campaign finance disclosure and still is.

Please add your support to S 482. The public deserves to have campaign finance reports available in a timely fashion.

It is both a waste of taxpayer dollars to send paper reports that need to be re-entered for filing and an unnecessary delay in the public’s right to know in a timely manner who is contributing to campaigns.

I also urge you to work to amend the bill to require monthly campaign reports like we have in Washington State for most candidates. Only reporting campaign contributions and expenditures every 3 months deprives the public of timely disclosure they have a right to know.

Steve Zemke
May 25, 2009

see S 482 here.
see co-sponsors here.

US Senators Still Trying to Figure Out Computers and Internet

If you think the US Senate is going to figure out a way to track the billions of dollars they are giving away forget it. It seems they still have not even figured out how to use computers and the Internet to even track their own campaigns.

For years Senate Republicans have been blocking legislation requiring them to use computers to move reporting of their campaign financing into the digital age. A New York Times editorial last year summed up the still current status of first filing paper copies of campaign records that then have to be scanned and resent to the Federal Elections Commission.

“Unlike the House, it (the US Senate) still refuses to require electronic filing of its campaign finance data. It clings to an old slow-motion paper system that builds in months of obfuscation by requiring print records that have to be scanned and e-mailed to election officials, who in turn have to do their own processing and printing before the information is publicly available. Senate Republican leaders have, scandalously, been blocking a good bill that would force campaign reporting into the digital age.”

Once again a bill is being introduced to correct this absurd situation. Let’s hope this time that the Democrats have enough audacity to tell the holdout Republicans, particularly Senator John Ensign of Nevada who put a hold on this bill in the past, to get with the program and move into the digital age. It’s way past time.

Talk about wasting money and resources still filing paperwork in the digital age. Of course for the Republicans it was merely a delaying tactic to prevent the public from getting timely information on campaign contributions.

As Reid Wilson reports on the Hill:

Under the current system, Senate campaigns file paper copies of their quarterly disclosure reports with the Secretary of the Senate, which then transmits those reports to the Federal Election Commission.
House campaigns are required to file their reports electronically and directly to the FEC, making for sortable databases and easily compilable statistics.
But the Senate process is cumbersome, often taking weeks to produce results readily available on the Internet.“If you can’t search on the Web, you can’t get timely information about contributions. It takes weeks for the contributions to get in any online database,” Weissman said. “It’s critical if you’re talking about an election coming up and the voters knowing who’s supporting the candidates.”

As it is the Congress still use quarterly filing and it is way past time to also move to monthly campaign reporting. Washington State has done monthly reporting for years. Congress should also and quit hiding information from the public about who is contributing to Senate campaigns.

The Hill notes that Senator Feingold and Senator Cochran first introduced the legislation entitled the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act in 2003. Feingold is going to reintroduce the bill again in the next few weeks and has the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Help urge the US Senate on and 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.

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.