U.S. Senate: Diverse Coalition Calls on U.S. Senators to Quit Wasting Tax Dollars and File Campaign Reports Electronically

Today, a diverse coalition of groups sent a letter to all U.S. Senators urging them to co-sponsor legislation which would require Senate candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically.  Currently, Senators and candidates for Senate file their reports – almost of which are originally created electronically – with the Secretary of the Senate who is required to print them out and then send them to the Federal Election Commission where the information is again re-entered as data.  This is a cynical waste of a hundreds of thousands of tax dollars and man-hours by politicians that regularly posture about deficit reduction.  The letter also urges Senators to file their reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission voluntarily.   Current law is outdated and has created a “Rube Goldberg” that wastes taxpayer money and creates unnecessary delays in disclosure.  With the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a series of Senators, including former Senator John Ensign (R-NV), have placed holds on this bill for the last several Congresses and blocked the measure for being enacted. Joining the Campaign Legal Center in signing the letter are The Campaign Finance Institute, The Center for Responsive Politics, Common Cause, Fix Congress First, Judicial Watch, MAPLight.org, OMB Watch, OpentheGovernment.org, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, The Sunlight Foundation, and US PIRG. The text of the letter follows below: June 9, 2011 Dear Senator: The undersigned are writing to urge to you co-sponsor S. 219, The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, introduced by Senators Tester and Cochran. In addition, we urge you to voluntarily file your campaign finance reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission. Voluntary electronic filing is a simple step you can take to make your campaign more transparent and show your support for S. 219, even before the bill is enacted. Senators Boxer, Cochran, Cornyn, Leahy, Lugar, Feinstein, Sanders and Tester filed electronically during the first reporting period of the year. All Senate candidates should follow their lead to make campaign finance information more transparent and accessible to the American people. The current system is archaic. Filing campaign finance reports with the Secretary of the Senate, who then prints them out and delivers them to the FEC, only to be re-entered into its own computer databases, wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and denies the public timely access to information. Unfortunately, efforts to mandate electronic filing by Senate candidates have been stymied since the bill was first introduced in 2003. Voluntary filing will never obviate the need for a change in the law. But it is an easy way for you to demonstrate your support for transparency. The information already exists in electronic form, and the FEC makes it easy to file electronically by simply downloading its free filing software and contacting the agency for an ID and password. Other candidates—candidates running for the House, presidential candidates and other political committees— have filed their campaign finance reports electronically for many years. Many of you filed electronically when you were House members. The next deadline for filing FEC reports is July 15. We hope you will decide to file your reports electronically then and continue to do so for every reporting period thereafter.  We also hope you will co-sponsor S. 219.  Both actions will demonstrate your support for more transparent elections. If you would like to discuss this matter further, please have your staff contact Lisa Rosenberg of the Sunlight Foundation at [email protected] Sincerely, The Campaign Finance Institute, The Campaign Legal Center, The Center for Responsive Politics, Common Cause, Fix Congress First, Judicial Watch, MAPLight.org, OMB Watch, OpentheGovernment.org, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, The Sunlight Foundation, US PIRG