A bipartisan group of Senators including Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on Wednesday attempted to inject new life into a measure that would require Senate candidates to electronically file their federal campaign finance reports.
Feingold and Cochran, along with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), circulated a letter to their Senate colleagues asking them to support their Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act.
In an interview, Cochran acknowledged that the online filing bill is not likely to be at the top of his colleagues’ agenda.
“This is the busiest time of the legislative season,” he said. “Senators are concentrating on interests they have back in their states, and election time is coming close. I don’t know how high this is on the priority scale. I wouldn’t imagine it’s very high.”
But, he added, “I hope it gets done sooner rather than later.”
And with the amount of legislative days dwindling, the lawmakers wanted to draw attention to their cause.
“We are Senators with varying political views, but we agree that the public has a right to expect electronic filing and online disclosure of campaign finance records,” the letter stated.
The letter pointed out that presidential and House candidates, along with political parties and political action committees, all must file electronically.
The Senators also attached a recent Washington Post column to their letter.
“We wanted to make sure our colleagues saw the Washington Post article, which highlights the need for this simple and long overdue reform, and the bipartisan nature of our effort,” Feingold wrote in an e-mail statement. “It is long past time for the Senate to come into the 21st century by requiring electronic filing.”
Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, said momentum is growing for expanding electronic filing. “We’re going to try to motivate our users to support this move toward transparency,” he said. “It’s an easy fix.”
He said the shift also would save taxpayer money, because government officials currently have to input into computers the disclosure data they receive in hard copy.
Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for the campaign finance group Common Cause, said her group supports the move.
“In this Internet age, that kind of information should be available quickly and easily,” she said. “We are all for transparency and making this information accessible and available to the public.”
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