Inside The Senate's Byzantine Campaign Disclosure System
from the step-by-step dept
Politicians squabble back and forth about the appropriate extent of campaign finance regulations, but there’s a general consensus that a record of all campaign donations should be made to the public. For Congressmen and candidates for President, these records are quickly made available online, but members of the upper house, the Senate, have dragged their feet in terms of instituting new reporting mechanisms. Instead of making their contributions instantly available online, the Senate uses a stunningly inefficient method that causes lags of several months from the time a donation is made to the time it’s viewable online. Basically, Senators submit their donations on paper, whereupon receipt at the Federal Election Commission they are scanned into a computer and then printed out page by page. The printed copies are then shipped to a private contractor, where workers key in all of the data by hand. This information is then sent back to the FEC to be put online. This process costs the government $250,000 each year, and it keeps Senators from having to be fully open about who is paying for their campaigns. Of course, nobody in the Senate claims to be against a better disclosure system, it’s just that nobody is particularly for it either. And nobody but the Senate can make the Senate change its rules.