Inching Towards E-filing

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Where else but the United States Senate would digital documents containing vital public information be printed, scanned, emailed, printed again and re-keyed into computers before they could be searched, sorted and analyzed by the public? Because the Senate has exempted itself from the electronic filing requirements that apply to all other political committees, the absurd process is repeated multiple times a year by every candidate vying for a Senate seat.

Tomorrow, the Senate Rules Committee will hold a hearing on S. 219, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, a bill designed to bring the Senate into the 21st Century by requiring Senate candidates to file their campaign finance disclosure reports with the FEC, as House candidates, presidential candidates and PACs have been doing for years. Sunlight submitted testimony urging senators to support the bill. We also joined a coalition urging quick passage of this bipartisan legislation.

There is nothing controversial about the bill. No one has publicly opposed it on its merits. Possibly the most notable feature of the legislation is that a hearing is necessary at all. This bill should have been enacted a decade ago.

The primary culprit behind the failure to enact this bill is Senator Mitch McConnell. For reasons that only he could explain (although he never has) he has blocked passage of this bill by subjecting it to secret holds and poison pill amendments. This is the same Mitch McConnell who once asked, “Why would a little disclosure [of money in politics] be better than a lot of disclosure?”

We are left to assume that McConnell only supports a lot of disclosure when he thinks it advantages him or his party. Otherwise, he will do everything in his power to deny the public timely access to information that is critical to a functioning democracy.

The current process by which Senate candidates file their campaign finance reports wastes time and money, not to mention reams of paper. It is particularly troublesome in the days before an election, when there is more information filed and when delays may mean the public must go to the polls without access to complete information about candidates’ finances.

We hope the days of political gamesmanship surrounding this simple bill are over. It is past time for the Senate to adopt mandatory electronic filing of campaign finance reports.

Testimony of Ellen Miller in Support of S. 219

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