Legislation & policy analysis

Bipartisan Senate bill to save taxpayers money and increase transparency reaches new record level of support

A bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate that would save taxpayers nearly $900,000 a year and increase political transparency has won over more sponsors than any other time since it was first introduced in 2003.

With Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John McCain (R-AZ) and Tina Smith (D-MN) recently joining as official cosponsors, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act (S. 298) — which would require U.S. Senate candidates to join all other federal candidates in electronically filing their campaign finance reports — has now been formally backed by 53 sitting senators.

“Democrats, Republicans and independents understand that the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act is a win-win proposition to increase transparency while saving taxpayers money,” said Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee. “In an era of email, smartphones and cloud computing, it is ridiculous that Senate candidates are still required to file paper copies of their campaign finance reports. It is time for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to stop standing in the schoolhouse door. The Senate should pass this long-overdue reform before the 115th Congress comes to a close.”

Added Michael Beckel, Issue One’s manager of research, investigations and policy analysis: “It has been an uphill battle for more than a decade to get the Senate to embrace e-filing, but the wind is at our backs. A record number of senators rightfully recognize that it’s time for the Senate to stop wasting taxpayer money to process reams of paper that detail senators’ campaign expenditures and fundraising. There is bipartisan momentum for the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act for good reason.”

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) estimates that Senate candidates switching to e-filing would save taxpayers approximately $900,000 a year. The often-divided agency has regularly unanimously urged the Senate to make this technological leap forward.

Here is how the current process works: Senate candidates must print out their campaign finance reports, which typically originated in an electronic database, to either mail or hand-deliver it to the Secretary of the Senate. Senate staffers, in turn, scan the documents to convert them into digital .pdf files and send them to the FEC. That agency then hires a government contractor to key the information back into a searchable digital format. Several weeks — and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars — later, the information is finally available to the public in a searchable, sortable and downloadable fashion.

The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act — which was introduced last year by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS), who retired from the Senate earlier this month — would make e-filing a reality.

This important legislation is now sponsored by 41 Senate Democrats, 10 Senate Republicans and both of the independents serving in the U.S. Senate — Sen. Angus King of Maine and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Additionally, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act has been endorsed by a host of groups from across the ideological spectrum, including the Campaign​ ​Finance​ ​Institute; Campaign​ ​Legal​ ​Center; Cause​ ​of​ ​Action​ ​Institute; Center​ ​for​ ​Political​ ​Accountability; Center​ ​for​ ​Responsive​ ​Politics; Common​ ​Cause; Demand​ ​Progress​ ​Action; Democracy​ ​21; Government​ ​Accountability​ ​Institute; Issue One; Judicial​ ​Watch; League​ ​of​ ​Women​ ​Voters​ ​of​ ​the​ ​United​ ​States; Liberty​ ​Coalition; MapLight; National​ ​Institute​ ​on​ ​Money​ ​in​ ​State​ ​Politics; National​ ​Legal​ ​and​ ​Policy​ ​Center; OpenTheGovernment; Project​ ​On​ ​Government​ ​Oversight; Sunlight​ ​Foundation; Take​ ​Back​ ​Our​ ​Republic; and Taxpayers​ ​for​ ​Common​ ​Sense.