Legislation & policy analysis

The $400,000 Question: Does Mitch McConnell now support Senate e-filing?

<p>Credit: Talk Radio News Service, creative commons</p>

Credit: Talk Radio News Service, creative commons

Congress finally passed an omnibus budget deal today, after tense negotiations that nearly resulted in another federal government shutdown.

While neither Democrats nor Republicans were thrilled with the contents of the final bill, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is bound to be disappointed. He went to bat for several riders to loosen campaign finance restrictions and increase the flow of secret money into elections, but got few results.

The Senator from Kentucky lost the fight for a rider to raise the cap on party spending in coordination with candidates, a major victory for the reform community. But of note–during the negotiations, the McConnell offered an olive branch when he inserted language requiring Senate candidates file their campaign finance reports to the FEC electronically, like all other federal candidates do.

If passed, e-filing would provide much faster and effective disclosure of campaign raising and spending by allowing the public and the press to search records soon after they’re submitted.

Another benefit: cost savings. The FEC spends an estimated $400,000 per year “to photocopy, transport and key-punch data from hundreds of thousands of pages of filing.”

But why is its appearance in the omnibus package significant? The e-filing bill, known as the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, has been blocked by McConnell for years, despite widespread bipartisan support.

McConnell told NPR he supported this provision and would include it in the final bill. Yet the omnibus that passed today had nary a word about e-filing.

So the question remains: has Mitch had a change of heart? After years of blocking this common-sense idea, will he commit to allowing a floor vote?

Does Sen. Mitch McConnell now support Senate e-filing or not?