What Could be Bad About Tester’s Plan?

Published: February 17, 2017

By Jim Lichtman
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It’s getting harder and harder to keep politicians accountable, particularly when it comes to financial contributions. That’s where Montana Senator Jon Tester’s plan comes in.


In a story researched and written by the Center for Public Integrity – a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative media organization in Washington, DC – earlier this month (Feb. 2), “Tester’s legislation… would require US Senate candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically like all other federal candidates — not on paper, as is the current practice.

“ ‘It’s hard to say this is a bad bill,’ Tester told the Center for Public Integrity in an interview. ‘It saves money and adds disclosure, so what could be bad about that?’

“The Congressional Budget Office has estimated,” The Center continues, “that taxpayers would save about $500,000 a year if senators electronically filed these reports.

“Nearly all federal candidates and committees began electronically filing their campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission in 2001. But the Senate was exempted from the e-filing requirement.

“Tester’s proposal is popular on both sides of the aisle. More than 60 sitting senators plan to co-sponsor the bill this year or have previously supported Senate e-filing… Yet the bill’s fate is likely controlled by just one man: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who campaign disclosure advocates accuse of blocking similar legislation in years past.

“McConnell’s plans this year for the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act are unknown. Representatives of the Kentucky Republican did not respond to a request for comment for this story, nor did spokespeople for President Donald Trump.

“Tester said his goal now is to get a ‘good bipartisan push’ for the bill so that McConnell ‘won’t be able to say no.’

“Tester added that he will also introduce two other campaign-finance-related measures today. One targets politically active ‘dark money’ nonprofit groups, and the other seeks to amend the US Constitution to clamp down on corporate politicking. Both face long odds in the Republican-controlled Congress.

“…at least three of the five newly minted Senate Democrats — Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. All are expected to co-sponsor Tester’s bill. …

“Meanwhile, four other sitting Democratic senators, each of whom did not sponsor the bill in the last Congress — Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Patty Murray of Washington — expressed support for Senate campaign finance e-filing.

“ ‘Sen. Murray plans to co-sponsor this bill when it is reintroduced,’ said Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the assistant Democratic leader.

“ ‘We plan to co-sponsor,’ said Bennet spokeswoman Laurie Cipriano.

“ ‘We support the policy and have no other comment at this time,’ said Casey spokeswoman Jacklin Rhoads.

“…seven other sitting Republican senators and two other sitting Democrats have previously co-sponsored the e-filing bill, some as recently as 2014. … Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, John McCain of Arizona, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

“Cornyn himself is among the roughly one-fifth of sitting senators who already voluntarily e-file copies of their campaign finance reports..

“It’s unclear whether any of these senators plan on co-sponsoring the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act this year. Spokespeople for these lawmakers either did not respond to requests for comment or said the senators were still in the process of reviewing the legislation. …

“For his part, Tester is determined to keep fighting for progress. ‘E-file is a good enough bill to stand on its own feet,’ he told the Center.

“ ‘The House already does it. The Senate needs to do,’ he continued. ‘This doesn’t do anything more than add more accountability to the process.’ ”

And accountability is a vital part of a democratic society.


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