Take action before the committee mark-up of the Senate electronic filing bill tomorrow by asking your Senators to support a clean bill. The Sunlight Network has a petition (click here for petition) ready for you to sign and send to your Senators asking them to support S. 223 with no additional amendments added. Currently the Senate files their campaign contribution reports on paper, costing an extra $250,000 and delaying the public availability of campaign contributors until after an election. This bill would solve those two problems by requiring Senators to file these reports electronically. Please go take action to help move the Senate into the 21st Century. If you are from Hawaii, New York, or Connecticut your letters are incredibly important at this moment.Continue reading
Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced that the Senate electronic filing bill mark-up will be held next Wednesday, March 28th. During the Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing on Sen. Russ Feingold's electronic filing bill ranking member Bob Bennett declared his intention to introduce amendments during the committee mark-up of the bill. Bennett promised that these amendments would be non-controversial. It appears that Bennett isn't going to keep his promise. The Campaign Finance Institute is sending out a letter to Congress demanding that the committee approve the bill as a stand alone measure with no amendments. In the letter Bennett is said to be introducing a highly controversial, partisan amendment that, if attached, would make the bill D.O.A. on the floor of the Senate. Read a section of the letter:Continue reading
Our friends at the Center for Responsive Politics have released updated numbers of 2006 lobbying. They note that lobbyists disclosed that they were paid some $2.45 billion in 2006 to influence Congress and the executive branch of government--which amounted to a mere 1.7 percent increase over 2005. The dot-com like surge of lobbyist expenditures of the previous year (from $2.19 billion in 2004 to $2.41 million in 2005, according to the chart) wasn't repeated, but there's also no indication that K Street spending is a bubble about to burst.Continue reading
Tomorrow at 10 AM the Senate Rules and Administration Committee will hold a hearing on Sen. Russ Feingold's bill to require Senators to file their FEC reports electronically. As documented in many different places this would save taxpayers at least $250,000 and would make tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions much more accessible and available to journalists, bloggers, and the public at large. It's a win-win. If haven't called your Senator to ask them if they support the bill (S. 223) you should. And report back to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) about where they stand.
This is the first hearing into the bill which will be followed by a markup in a couple of weeks. The key for this bill to advance is for it to be unencumbered by other campaign finance related amendments. The bill must be reported out amendment-free or else it risks being defeated on the floor in the Senate.
Check out the Campaign Finance Institute for a wealth of research and information into this subject. (I've listed the current co-sponsors and the Rules and Administration committee members below the fold.)Continue reading
We've obtained a witness list for Wednesday's Rules and Administration Committee hearing on the Senate electronic filing bill. According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office, the witnesses include:
- Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) - the bill's sponsor
- Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) - the principle Republican cosponsor
- Nancy Erickson - Secretary of the Senate
- Steve Weissman - head of the Campaign Finance Institute
- Thomas Mann - Brookings Institution Congressional scholar
- someone from the Federal Election Commission
Speaking of the Dubai ports deal in the context of the inadequacy of our current lobbyist disclosure laws, it's probably worth noting that it wasn't just DP World that was hiring lobbyists. The controversy, recall, erupted in the second half of February, as an increasingly large, bipartisan group of lawmakers questioned the sale of a British firm that handled some U.S. port operations to a company owned by the government of Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates. By March 9, DP World announced it would get out of the U.S. ports business.Continue reading
Glenn Reynolds notes that both Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are holding up legislation that would make the Senate have to electronically file their campaign finance reports. This process would save the Federal Election Commission about $250,000 and countless hours of work per election cycle, not to mention the numerous other benefits to campaign finance watchers. Now here's the crazy thing: both Trent Lott and Mitch McConnell already use electronic software to fill out FEC forms. In fact, it is highly likely that they are among the 95% of Senators who use the FEC's own or recommended software.Continue reading
My conversations yesterday with senior staffers on the Hill about the prognosis of electronic filing for Senate campaign finance reports were illuminating. The bill is stuck in the Rules Committee which at this point in the legislative cycle means it's not happening. I was told that only if there was unanimous consent would the legislation move, but that was unlikely because there is one key opponent - Senator Mitch McConnell.
I had to laugh: the Senator known as the Darth Vader of campaign finance reform - who used to defend his opposition to that by calling for more disclosure - is now out to kill even disclosure! In the context of debating a disclosure amendment about union funds in 2001, McConnell said:Continue reading
I just can't quite give it up.
Even on vacation, a story about disclosure catches my eye, In the New Mexican on Saturday, it's noted that the Santa Fe City Council wants earlier and more complete campaign finance disclosure. If the Santa Fe City Council adopts recommendations made earlier this week by the city Ethics and Campaign Review Board, candidates would have to report earlier than ever before. Many believe it would help educate the early voters. And yes, another recommendation adopted by the City Council is to encourage electronic filing.Continue reading