Yesterday’s K Street Confidential column in the Washington Post by Jeffrey Birnbaum seems to have ignited a brushfire in the blogosphere. Birnbaum’s subject for the day was the fact that candidates for the U.S. Senate – unlike anyone else at the federal level – still file their campaign reports on paper rather than electronically.
(This means weeks of delay in getting the information into a searchable format, and expending taxpayer funds to hand-input paper records from the campaigns into computer format. See my post from yesterday)
If anyone was shocked – shocked, I tell you! – at the absurdity of all this in this computer age, it was the people whose fingers are tapping out URLs on keyboards all day long. By 10:30 am, the Daily Kos had issued an action alert on the subject, listing the names and phone numbers of Democratic senators to call urging them to support electronic filing.
Shortly afterwards, the lefties were joined by the righties as Red State jumped on the bandwagon, urging their readers to contact Republican Senator Trent Lott, whose Rules and Administration Committee is holding up any change in the rules.
Birnbaum’s piece was picked up by many other blogs yesterday, though most simply linked straight through to the column.
As it turns out, some of the people most surprised – and delighted – to hear of the growing pressure for the Senate to file electronically were the staffers at the Federal Election Commission. The commission has been trying for years to get the Senate to live by the same rules that everyone else has followed since 1995 – but practically no one outside the agency had been paying attention.
If the Senate filed electronically, the FEC would save something over $100,000 per election cycle that they’ve been paying to have human inputters re-enter the paper records into computer format. That’s got to be one of the dumbest expenditures of taxpayer funds anywhere, and the FEC – among others – would dearly love to zero it out.