Senator Jeanne Shaheen became the 40th cosponsor of S. 482, The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. Forty bipartisan senators on any piece of legislation demonstrates significant support. In the case of this bill, which no one publicly opposes, there is surely nearly unanimous support in the Senate. As we’ve written here before, the bill would do nothing more than require Senate candidates and committees to file their campaign finance reports electronically. By virtue of the fact that this is “public information,” it should be made available immediately. There is no rationale for delay.
We hope that any senator who supports this bill will oppose any amendment that would impinge the bill’s chances of passage. We are especially concerned that Sen. Pat Roberts has indicated that when S. 482 is brought to the Senate floor, he will offer an amendment that would require any nonprofit organization filing an ethics complaint against a sitting senator to publicly disclose its donors. If this amendment were to become law, the result would be fewer legitimate inquiries into alleged violations of Senate rules. The amendment is antithetical to the underlying bill, which will, when enacted, result in more, not less, transparency of the political process.
S. 482 is close to passing—but we’ve been close before. Each of the 40 cosponsors of the bill, plus at least 11 more, need to commit to opposing the Roberts amendment, and they need to do it soon. It takes time for an electronic filing system to be put into place, and if this bill doesn’t become law in the very near term, senate candidates running for office in 2010 will once again file paper campaign finance reports, and once again the public will be denied timely online access to critical information.