Bipartisan momentum is building for Senate e-filing

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., talks about how he has advocated for transparency while in Congress during "The Price We Pay for Money's Influence on Politics."
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., one of the biggest proponents of Senate e-filing. (Photo credit: Sunlight Foundation)

Late last month, we urged senators to file their campaign finance reports electronically, a move that could save $500,000 and significantly boost transparency if all 100 lawmakers got on board.

In the end, only 22 senators took advantage of the modern technology available to them and embraced robust disclosure of their campaign donors. At first blush, that’s not very heartening, but some related news reveals a more positive trend.

Just days after the Jan. 31 filing deadline, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced S. 366, “A Bill to Require Senate Candidates to File Designations, Statements, and Reports in Electronic Form.” The bill, which has mostly attracted support from Democrats in the past, was introduced with 31 original co-sponsors, including a number of high-profile Republicans.

Most excitingly, as reported by the Center for Public Integrity, a number of newly elected Republican senators signed on as co-sponsors while expressing disbelief that senators are still allowed to submit their reports on paper — a process totally out of step with the convenience of the Internet age, as well as standard practice for House and presidential candidates.

The bill will face an uphill battle in the Senate — thanks to opposition from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — but the wide range of senators that are on record supporting the bill shows that this is a nonpartisan issue with growing momentum behind it.

The old guard won’t be able to ignore this growing consensus for too much longer. Senate candidates will join those running for the House and for president in filing these reports electronically — hopefully sooner rather than later.