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E-filing bill now has more support than ever

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by   –  Center for Responsive Politics

A bill that would require all Senate candidates to electronically file campaign finance disclosures with the Federal Election Commission picked up two more cosponsors last month, pushing the number of senators who have signed on to the bill higher than it’s ever been.

The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, which has received bipartisan support since its introduction more than a decade ago, now has 53 sponsors, after Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) put their names on the bill in mid-April.

The legislation, if passed, would require all Senate campaign committees to file financial disclosure reports directly with the FEC, rather than the Secretary of the Senate. Senate candidates currently file those disclosures on paper, which means that the public often has to wait weeks or months to get campaign finance information while documents are scanned into an electronic format.

Passage of the bill would save taxpayers nearly $900,000 a year, according to 2017 FEC estimates.

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House and presidential candidates have been required to file financial reports electronically since 2001. About 20 senators — mostly Democrats — voluntarily file disclosure reports electronically, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

The bill has been introduced in every Congress since 2003, but it’s never made it to a vote on the Senate floor.

“It’s hard to say this is a bad bill,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who has introduced the bill repeatedly since 2011, in an interview with the Center for Public Integrity last year. “It saves money and adds disclosure, so what could be bad about that?”

In addition to the 53 current cosponsors of the bill, at least 14 other senators have historically expressed support for the legislation.

A spokesman for Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who hasn’t cosponsored the bill, told the Center for Public Integrity in 2015 that Tillis “would be supportive of e-filing requirements at the federal level if the implementation grants candidates and committees ample time to prepare for the new law.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who cosponsored the bill in 2015, said at the time he’d be a leader on the “commonsense, bipartisan legislation.”

“It’s time to bring Senate campaign reporting into the 21st century,” Gardner said. He hasn’t yet signed on to the bill after it was reintroduced in 2017.

Other senators who have previously cosponsored the legislation include:

  • Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who cosponsored the bill in the 114th Congress
  • Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who cosponsored the bill in the 114th Congress
  • Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who cosponsored the bill in the 114th, 113th, 112th, 111th and 110th Congresses
  • Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who cosponsored the bill in the 113th Congress
  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who cosponsored the bill in the 113th Congress
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who cosponsored the bill in the 113th, 112th, 111th, 110th and 109th Congresses
  • Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who cosponsored the bill in the 110th and 109th Congresses
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who cosponsored the bill in the 110th Congress

It’s unclear whether those senators plan to put their names on the bill again, but a spokesman for Enzi, who cosponsored the bill in 2013, said the senator’s support for the goals of the legislation “has not changed.”

Spokespeople for the rest of the senators didn’t return requests for comment.

The Center for Responsive Politics has expressed support for the passage of the bill.

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