Progress on Senate Electronic Filing Bill–Will it be Enough?

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With no debate, minimal discussion and not even a whisper of an objection, the Senate Rules committee yesterday sent S. 375, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, to the floor of the Senate by a voice vote. The understated proceedings reflect the nature of the legislation. The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act is, at its core, a technical fix to an antiquated paper filing process. It’s not a major change to the law that would require hours of debate. If the Senate were a rational body, the noncontroversial legislation would be enacted immediately and without fanfare.

But assuming the Senate is rational is a big “if.” Instead of quickly enacting a simple bill that would bring the Senate into the 21st century, ensuring the public has timely access to information while at the same time saving taxpayers $400,000 a year, the Senate has failed to enact this bill for ten years! The reason for the hold up is a bit of a mystery, as no Senator has publicly opposed the legislation itself. Political games like secret holds and threats of poison pill amendments have been used consistently to block the bill—to the point that we think that even though no one will say out loud that they oppose e-filing, some Senator or Senators must really fear timely, accurate public access to senate campaign finance records. There is simply no other explanation for the bill’s continued failure.

The Sunlight Foundation is on a mission to find out. Over the next few months, we will attempt to get answers from Senators on whether they support electronic filing of senate campaign finance reports. Stay tuned for the results.

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