No E-Filing Fix in the Senate, Yet


National Journal’s Eliza Krigman reminds us all of the United States Senate’s failure to catch up with modern times and file their campaign finance reports in electronic format. Sunlight’s spent the past three years trying to get this legislation passed. The 110th Congress finally let the bill out of committee, only to see Republican senator after Republican senator hold, block, and delay the bill. Here’s what Krigman has to say:

Believe it or not, the Senate is dragging its feet into the modern era of information-sharing and is still using a hard copy system for filing campaign finance reports. With paper filing, final disclosure reports of senatorial candidates are not available to the public until after the election due to the time it takes the Federal Election Commission to process the paperwork.

What’s stopping senators from e-filing when campaigns have all the information available electronically? That’s exactly the question Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., has been asking. He is the author of the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, which would require reports filed with the Secretary of the Senate to be filed electronically and forwarded to the FEC within 24 hours. In the past, Feingold has signed up 47 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle; his bill failed to pass in the last Congress but his office tells National Journal the senator plans to re-introduce the legislation in the 111th Congress.

But Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., effectively put the kibosh on the e-filing legislation by insisting on an unrelated and controversial amendment to require groups that file ethics complaints to disclose their donors. Contrary to his past legislative position, Ensign went on the record this past October saying that he is “100 percent for electronic filing.”

In regards to Sen. Ensign, I’ll believe it when I see it. We’ll keep you informed as to when Sen. Feingold introduces a new version of the e-filing legislation for the 11th Congress.