In what could be a record for shortest congressional hearing, the Senate Rules Committee today discussed S. 219, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. At the thirty minute hearing, Senators Schumer, Alexander and Tester discussed their support for the bill, which would require Senate candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission, eliminating the duplicative, time consuming and wasteful current filing process. Senator Udall announced he would join the bill as a cosponsor, and two witnesses, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson and Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center, echoed their support for this noncontroversial legislation, noting that not only would it save the FEC over $400,000 annually, but it would free up resources for the Secretary of the Senate to implement the STOCK Act. Most importantly, requiring electronic filing of campaign finance reports would ensure that vital information about campaigns’ receipts and expenditures would be available to the public before they go to the polls.
The bill is so straightforward the Senators didn’t even have any questions for the witnesses. So will it pass? Unfortunately, the deciding factor will be Mitch McConnell. For reasons he has never adequately explained, he has been behind the secret holds and poison pill amendments that have blocked this bill for years. In pure Washington-speak, he claims to support the bill without denying that he has blocked it. He has had other senators, included Pat Roberts and John Ensign, do his dirty work for him, offering amendments that had nothing to do with transparency and everything to do with killing the bill. But when we came across evidence that before Ensign offered it, his poison pill amendment in was actually a McConnell amendment, we knew who the culprit was. Don’t just take our word for it. Even Sen. Ensign admitted to working with McConnell on the strategy that killed a prior version of the bill.
Maybe this is the year McConnell will finally give up the fight, let this simple bill pass by Unanimous Consent, and spend his energies on true controversies. Maybe.