Senate Struggles to Do What Makes SenseMarch 26, 2007 - by Donny Shaw
The Senate Rules and Administration Committee is planning to mark-up a bill on Wednesday to require senators to file their campaign-finance reports electronically. Consider the way the reports are filed currently:
>Instead of quickly downloading their campaign financing data directly to the Federal Election Commission, like everybody else [the House of Representatives and Presidential candidates], senators print out their records on paper and snail-mail them to the Senate secretary. These pages have to be scanned into digital images that are then e-mailed to the election commission, where — wait now — they have to be printed and collated. This paper treadmill — perhaps 10,000 pages — is next sent to a private contractor to be tediously typed at a cost of $250,000 back into a computer, of all things. From there, the information is e-mailed back to the election commission for, yes, posting on the Internet.
However, the ranking member of the committee, Bob Bennett (R-UT) (pictured at right), is planning to muck-up the bill with a controversial amendment during the mark-up process. Without the amendment, the bill would likely pass the Senate with unanimous approval. But if the amendment is attached, the bill would be dead on arrival.
Knowing who elected officials receive their campaign finances from is extremely important in holding them accountable for their decisions as lawmakers. Filing this information electronically would not only save taxpayers money, but it would also get this information to the public much sooner.
The Campaign Finance Institute sent out a letter demanding that the amendment not be attached to the bill:
>an amendment circulated by Senator Bennett for the March 28th scheduled mark-up of the Senate-only electronic disclosure bill
- to repeal the 30 year old legal limits on all party spending in coordination with candidates- is extremely complex and controversial. It has long been opposed by major campaign reform groups. And it has produced a very strong partisan division in Congress. A similar provision was inserted by the Republican-led House Rules Committee — without a floor vote — into a 527 reform bill that passed the House in 2006 with overwhelming Democratic opposition. The Senate Democratic leadership voiced strong opposition to this provision and we have confirmed that it is opposed to the Bennett Amendment. Whatever one thinks of the substantive merits or flaws in this amendment - I personally have favored this change in the context of other campaign finance reforms-it has no place in a noncontroversial Senate consensus bill