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Bringing the Senate Into the 21st Century

PHOTO: Sen. Jon Tester is sponsoring a bill requiring U.S. senators to file campaign finance reports online.(credit: Sen. Tester's office)
PHOTO: Sen. Jon Tester is sponsoring a bill requiring U.S. senators to file campaign finance reports online.
(credit: Sen. Tester's office)
March 25, 2014

WASHINGTON - The ranks are growing of ordinary Americans who are demanding transparency in campaign spending by politicians at all levels of government, and now a bill on the subject with a good chance of passing has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Although the House has required electronic filing of campaign finance reports for years, in the Senate it's just voluntary, and so far only 16 senators do it. Montana Democrat Jon Tester, the lead sponsor of a bill to require senators to file that way, said it's a move whose time has come.

"It's a pretty simple bill. It just brings the Senate into the 21st century by requiring senators to file all their election reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission," Tester said. "It adds for better transparency, it saves money, and it gives people better access to really knowing what's going on in Washington, D.C."

More than two dozen senators are sponsoring the bipartisan bill.

According to Viveca Novak, editorial director at the Center for Responsive Politics, an organization that has been promoting e-filing for years, paper filing costs taxpayers money to have the information put online. She said the delays that causes can be crucial as an election nears, when voters need to know as much as possible about who's backing candidates.

"It's a circular and wasteful system, and it also leads to considerable delay in the availability to the public of the information," Novak declared.

Similar bills have been introduced every year since 2000, but supporters are hoping, with growing support inside and outside of the Senate, that 2014 will bring success.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - MT