Will Electronic Filing Finally Happen in the Senate?

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The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, S. 482, may have a new lease on life. We learned that Majority Leader Reid has “hotlined” the bill. That’s a procedure used to pass noncontroversial bills quickly–basically by agreement of all senators. Once a bill is hotlined, every senator has a chance to object to the bill moving forward.  If no one objects, the bill is on its way to becoming law.

The Campaign Disclosure Parity Act is a perfect candidate for legislation that should move by agreement. No senator has publicly opposed the legislation that would require simply that candidates for the Senate file their campaign finance reports electronically, the way House candidates, presidential candidates and political parties have filed their reports for nearly a decade.

Unfortunately, we’ve been down this road with this legislation before. In its previous incarnation in the 110th Congress, the bill’s progress was blocked by Senator John Ensign. He held up the bill because he wanted to try to add an unrelated and controversial amendment to it. Now we hear that Senator Pat Roberts may be taking over the obstructionist role from Ensign, possibly blocking the bill so that he can try to add a provision to it that would require nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors anytime they file an ethics complaint.  We think the amendment is antithetical to disclosure and has no place in S. 482.

We hope Senator Roberts decides against impeding the progress of S. 482.  Sunlight and many other groups have supported this bill for a long time and its passage is long overdue.

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  • A. We don’t file ethics complaints.

    B. The provision is unconstitutional. (See: NAACP v. Alabama.) The government cannot compel the disclosure of donors to a nonprofit. It’s a means of quieting a group through political pressure. It is also not germane to the bill and could exist as a stand alone bill. There is no reason to attach something viewed as controversial — and unconstitutional — in the Senate to something viewed as noncontroversial. If Roberts wants his amendment heard, he should refer it as a bill to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee for a fair hearing.

    C. We already disclose all of our donors.

  • John Thacker

    “a provision to it that would require nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors anytime they file an ethics complaint. We think the amendment is antithetical to disclosure and has no place in S. 482.”

    I’m interested, can you explain more why requiring disclosure from nonprofits is “antithetical to disclosure?” You may be right, but I don’t think you’ve made an argument here.

    It’s particularly pertinent considering that you’re a nonprofit that files ethics complaint, so you’re simply arguing that you should have to disclose your donors less.