The Sunlight Foundation and our Pass482 partners sent a letter to every Senator today asking them to support S. 482, The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act and oppose any amendment to the bill. The groups are especially concerned about an amendment Senator Roberts is insisting be included for a vote during consideration of the disclosure bill. The Roberts amendment would require that any nonprofit filing an ethics complaint against a sitting senator disclose its donors, something nonprofits are not now legally bound to do.
We understand the temptation for senators to support this amendment. It would deter nonprofits from filing ethics complaints in order to respect and protect the anonymity and rights to free association of their donors. Tempting, yes, but unnecessary. The Senate Committee on Ethics has never requested this information and manages to dispose of ethics complaints without it. Moreover, by shielding senators from legitimate inquiries into their ethical behavior, the amendment is antithetical to the underlying bill, which is about more, not less transparency in the political realm.
If the amendment passes, it would garner enough opposition that the underlying transparency measure would likely fail, destroying any chance to mandate electronic filing of campaign finance data this year. The current wasteful system of paper-filing and manual data entry by the FEC delays online public access to campaign finance information by a month or more. That kind of delay when there is a simple fix available is unconscionable. The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act is long overdue and it too important to allow Senator Roberts to sabotage its passage. We urge all senators to publicly demonstrate their opposition to the amendment. We urge you to call your senators if they haven’t.