Government Shutdown + Arcane Senate Rules = Less Transparency in New Jersey Senate Race

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“We told you so,” is so petty, but, well, we told you so. We predicted that disclosure of Senate campaign finance reports would be delayed due to the shutdown, but this was a victim of the shutdown that did not have to be.  The Federal Election Commission, while not exactly open for business, can still receive electronically filed reports of campaigns’ receipts and expenditures.  The electronic reports can be viewed by the public, and are important for anyone who wants to follow the money that is flowing into a campaign.

But, because the Senate has failed to pass the S. 375, Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, it still relies an arcane system in which candidates file paper records with the Secretary of the Senate. Thus, rather than being made public–as electronic filings are, despite the shutdown–campaign disclosures for the New Jersey Senate race were sent via the U.S. Postal Service and are now languishing somewhere in a shut-down Senate mail-room. As Sunlight’s reporting group noted yesterday, the public could not log onto the FEC’s website to find out who contributed to the candidates prior to today’s special election in New Jersey.  Sunlight was able to obtain a hard copy of the Booker campaign’s summary report only by making an in-person visit to the Senate office of Public Records. To obtain the full 1,200-page report on paper, it would have cost 20 cents per page.  Worse, the Booker campaign refused to share his filings with the media.

Whoever is victorious in the New Jersey race can expect a call from us as soon as he is sworn in, urging him to join the 36 bipartisan cosponsors S. 375.  Even when the lights are out in the Capitol and across federal agencies, there is no excuse to keep the public in the dark about who is funding candidates’ campaigns.

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