Disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures hold candidates accountable — but after the votes are in, it’s often too late for the scrutiny of watchdogs (and opponents) to make a difference. That’s why in addition to quarterly reports, candidates must report large contributions made in the final days of the campaign within 48 hours of receiving them.
In the Massachusetts special Senate election, Martha Coakley and Scott Brown were required to file reports for contributions larger than $1,000 between December 31 through January 16. As of today, January 20, however, the most recent contributions available were made on January 13. What about the contributions made on January 14 through 18?
According to the FEC, they’re in the government’s hands, but unavailable because candidates transmit reports to the office of the Secretary of the Senate, which then copies the forms and sends them to the FEC, which then scans the pages in and uploads them to its Web site.
If an electorate informed before voting is important enough to require 48-hour filings, does it make sense for the reports from the last, tense days of the campaign to be buried in government offices?
There’s a solution. On the House side, treasurers click “send” on electronic filing programs and the data is transmitted–in a format appropriate for database analysis and searching, not images of paper forms–in real time.