Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) are renewing a push to make the lives of reporters and others interested in tracking political fundraising a little easier by requiring Senate campaigns to keep electronic fundraising records.
Currently, fundraising records for the House and presidential races are filed in a digital format that can be accessed instantly. But in the Senate, candidates file large stacks of paper every quarter by mail, and it can take weeks before they are all available to the public. Those interested in the disclosure reports have to go through them manually, in a painstaking fashion that takes hours.
The practice effectively gives Senate campaigns more time in which to portray the filings the way they want to before anyone else can verify them. It often reduces coverage of the reports when they are eventually filed, because they seem like old news by the time they are available.
It's only a marginal benefit of switching to digital, but dealing with the old-fashioned paper system wastes about $500,000 annually, Schumer said in a Wednesday statement about the bill, which is sponsored by Tester.
"For transparency’s sake, it is time for the Senate to move to a modern system of filing of its campaign finance reports," said Schumer, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee. “This bill would not only save hundreds of thousands of dollars for taxpayers each year, it would also help provide more immediate and complete access to campaign spending reports. The public deserves the utmost transparency when it comes to campaign finances, and the Senate’s switch to an e-filing system is long overdue."
The bill is called the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, and it has 24 co-sponsors, including seven Republicans. Versions of the bill have been proposed since 2003, but they have all been blocked.