Legislation & policy analysis

Provision to create e-file system for U.S. Senate candidates passes as part of Senate’s FY19 Legislative Branch appropriations bill

A long-overdue, bipartisan reform measure that would save taxpayers roughly $900,000 a year while increasing political transparency and accountability is one step closer to becoming law.

A provision that would require U.S. Senate candidates to join all other federal candidates in electronically filing their campaign finance reports was included in the minibus appropriations bill overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on Monday in an 86-5 vote. The Federal Election Commission estimates that this change would save taxpayers approximately $900,000 a year.

“It is ludicrous that Senate candidates are still required to file campaign finance reports on paper — and this provision to change that is the right mix of smart policy and good politics. It would save Americans millions of dollars each election cycle and modernize outdated rules governing Senate campaigns,” said Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee. “We applaud the bipartisan leadership of Democratic Senator Jon Tester and Republican Senator Steve Daines in championing this long-overdue reform, and we urge Senate leadership to retain this noncontroversial provision in the final version of this appropriations bill. This should be a no-brainer.”

The stand-alone version of the e-file proposal, known as the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act (S. 298), was introduced last year by a bipartisan group of senators led by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). It is currently cosponsored by 52 additional senators — 39 Senate Democrats, both of the independents serving in the Senate and 11 Senate Republicans, including Senator Steve Daines (R-MT).

As the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s legislative branch subcommittee, Senator Daines inserted the e-filing provision into the FY19 Legislative Branch appropriations bill earlier this month.

The newly passed minibus appropriations bill — which included legislative branch appropriations as well as funding for energy, water, military construction and veterans affairs — must now be reconciled with the version of this legislation passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives — a process that usually occurs in a conference committee.