Senators Eye 21st Century World of Campaign Finance

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Capitol in Washington, DC.

The Senate could be on the verge of entering the modern world when it comes to campaign finance.

More than one-third of the Senate — 35 senators — have attached their names to legislation that would require candidates to file their campaign finance information electronically to the Federal Election Commission, rather than on paper to the Secretary of the Senate. Senators and their opponents are now the only federal candidates who still use paper; others have been filing electronically for a decade.

The bill, S. 375, has bipartisan support. It was introduced by Democrat Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Previous efforts to require electronic filings have been blocked by Senate Republicans.

While presidential, House, political party and political action committee filings can be made instantly available for public inspection and analysis, it takes weeks, if not months, before Senate filings can be entered into the FEC’s computers.

“Through its insistence on clinging to this time consuming and expensive process of paper-based filing, the U.S. Senate succeeds only in denying voters vital information about who is bankrolling campaigns until after the votes have been counted, but that is precisely the goal of opponents,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that favors stronger campaign finance laws.


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