Trendsetters Wanted

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The Sunlight Foundation and a dozen other bipartisan organizations are seeking Senators who are willing to be among the first to embrace the most modern of trends in the upper chamber—voluntary electronic filing of their campaign finance reports.

Senators Boxer, Cochran, Cornyn, Feinstein, Leahy, Lugar, and Sanders electronically filed their campaign finance reports with the FEC during the last reporting period. Senator Gillibrand recently announced that she too will begin filing electronically on July 15, the next deadline for filing FEC reports. Any senator who supports transparency should join this small group and commit to filing their campaign finance reports electronically starting in July and continuing to do so for every reporting period thereafter.

Failing to file electronically is inexcusable. The FEC makes voluntary electronic filing easy. Senators, or their campaigns, can simply download the agency’s free filing software and contact the agency for an ID and password. In fact, senators who served in the House prior to coming to the Senate are likely to have already filed electronically. Electronic filing has been mandatory in the House for years.

Voluntary filing will never obviate the need for a change in the law. For that reason, the letter also asks senators to cosponsor S. 219, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, introduced by Senators Tester and Cochran. The law would modernize the archaic system in which candidates for the Senate file their FEC reports with the Secretary of the Senate, who then prints them out and delivers them to the FEC, only to have the FEC re-enter the information into its own computer databases. The system costs hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars each year and denies the public timely access to information. Unfortunately, efforts to mandate electronic filing have been stymied since the bill was first introduced in 2003. It is imperative that the legislation is enacted to ensure that all Senate candidates file electronically.

Until the law passes, we urge senators to demonstrate their leadership as well as their support for transparency and openness in Congress by embracing voluntary electronic filing.

The following groups have joined Sunlight calling for voluntary electronic filing and support of the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act: The Campaign Finance Institute, The Campaign Legal Center, The Center for Responsive Politics, Common Cause, Fix Congress First, Judicial Watch, MAPLight.org, OMB Watch, OpentheGovernment.org, Public Campaign, Public Citizen and US PIRG.

Group Letter to Senators on Electronic Filing

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