The Senate is trying to trim its budget. They can boost transparency at the same time.

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380,251.

That is the number of pages contained in more than 5,000 campaign reports that the Secretary of the Senate’s Office of Public Records scanned, processed, and sent to the FEC last year. That number emerged during testimony given by Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson to justify her budget request before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Legislative Branch Subcommittee this morning.

Despite their frugal rhetoric, most Senators have refused to move past their costly, inefficient paper-based campaign finance filing system. As they try to find ways to trim budgets, they should eliminate the expensive, anachronistic, and opaque practice of filing their campaign finance reports on paper rather than electronically, as presidential and House candidates along with Political Action Committees have been doing for years.

As we have noted in the past, shifting to an electronic filing system would save the Senate at least $430,000 per year, or 1.4 % of the Secretary’s total budget request. Most importantly, it would ensure that vital campaign finance information is online and available to voters before they go to the polls.

Powerful Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has long blocked common sense legislation that would require Senators to file their campaign finance reports electronically. But, a growing number of Senators are adopting the practice, and even more are supportive of  the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, which would push the Senate into the 21st Century.

An electronic filing system already exists. There is no reason why Senators shouldn’t be required to use it, and plenty of reasons why they should, not least of which is the staff time and effort that it takes to scan, prepare, and send 380,251 pages.

 

Photo via Flickr user Life As Art

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