Tuesday, April 12, 2005

U.S. Senate Uses Pony Express Pace for Campaign Filings

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Although the House of Representatives is required to file its campaign finance reports electronically, the United States Senate refuses to do so. As Brian DeBose writes in The Washington Times, this refusal meant that information on 85% of the $43.5 million in individual contributions to Senate candidates was not accessible as late as three days before the 2004 general election, according to a recent study by the Campaign Finance Institute.

Instead of restoring some fairness to the then $1,000 contribution limits to federal candidates, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 doubled limits, allowing a person to give a candidate $2,000 in the primary and $2,000 in the general election. With rich people even more able to dominate the process of elections, disclosure of contributions to candidates became even more important.

Unfortunately, the Senate fought hard to avoid the electronic filing requirements, which allow citizens to view who is giving to whom and how much they are giving in order to influence an election - valuable information. Instead, Senate candidates send their reports by mail to the FEC, which then has to manually input all the information into computers before it becomes available to voters.

Electronic filing is easier to do than paper filing. Electronic filing cuts down on the amount of data entry done by the Federal Elections Commission. And most importantly, it provides the American public with the best and most up-to-date information about who is trying to influence our elections process with big contributions.

The Senate can run, but it can't hide. It can pass a law tomorrow which gets them up to speed with modern times and which gets the American public up to speed on who's bankrolling the election efforts of Senate candidates. Of course, if they did pass a bill and used their current approach to campaign filings to spread the word about it, we wouldn't find out about it until July.

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