WASHINGTON--The Senate just voted to require transparency in President Obama's giant stimulus package and wants more sunshine on the TARP bank bailout money. Maybe these legislative experiences will trigger some movement in the chamber to do the right thing and finally require electronic filing of Senate campaign finance reports.
Hard to believe--but it is true--the Senate to date just does not want the public to have easy access to these reports. Presidential candidates, House contenders and political action committees have to e-file. But the Senate has been resisting for years.
On Thursday, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wi) joined by Thad Cochran (R-Ms) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for the FOURTH time introduced a bill to mandate electronic disclosure of Senate campaign finance reports. As noted in their release, the "legislation is identical to legislation that was introduced in the 108th, 109th, and 110th" sessions of Congress.
At present, the Federal Election Commission copies information on Senate receipts into their database. The FEC does not copy expenditures, making it difficult to do detailed analysis of campaigns.
The bill has been stalled in the past because non-related matters have been attached.
This is an easy one. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) should call the bill clean. And within 30 days. Let's just get this done.
FEINGOLD, COCHRAN, SCHUMER LEAD BIPARTISAN EFFORT TO REQUIRE E-FILING OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORTS
Legislation Would Improve Transparency in Report Filing
WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reintroduced legislation yesterday to require the electronic disclosure of Senate campaign finance reports. The legislation is identical to legislation that was introduced in the 108th, 109th, and 110th Congresses, and that was approved by the Senate Rules Committee in 2007. The bill would bring Senate rules in line with those already in place for presidential candidates, House candidates and political action committees that require campaign finance reports to be filed electronically. The bill has wide, bipartisan support. The Campaign Finance Institute estimates that the bill could save taxpayers $250,000 per year.
"This commonsense bill to make our electoral system more transparent is long overdue," Senator Feingold said. "The Senate should catch up with the House, the President, and the many Senators who already voluntarily file electronically by passing this reform which has broad bipartisan support."
Senator Cochran said, "This important legislation will require the Senate to operate with the same transparency in campaign filing that the President and Members of the House of Representatives already use. I hope the Senate will consider the bill in a timely manner and approve it so that we can begin to operate under a modern filing system."
"This proposal is a no-brainer. It should be approved expeditiously to increase disclosure and move the Senate's reporting system into the 21st century," said Senator Schumer, Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.
The bill amends the section of the election laws dealing with electronic filing to require reports filed with the Secretary of the Senate to be filed electronically and forwarded to the FEC within 24 hours. The FEC is required to make available on the Internet within 24 hours any filing it receives electronically. So if this bill is enacted, electronic versions of Senate reports should be available to the public within 48 hours of their filing. That will be a vast improvement over the current situation, which, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, requires journalists and interested members of the public to review computer images of paper-filed copies of reports, and involves a completely wasteful expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars to re-enter information into databases that almost every campaign has available in electronic format.
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.
Feingold, Cochran and Schumer are joined by Senators Akaka, Alexander, Bennett, Bingaman, Brown, Cardin, Chambliss, Dodd, Durbin, Feinstein, Grassley, Harkin, Isakson, Kerry, Leahy, Levin, Lieberman, Lugar, McCain, Nelson (NE), Reed, Reid, and Rockefeller in sponsoring this important legislation.