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More senators opt to e-file campaign disclosures

Bipartisan legislation would make practice mandatory

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(Updated April 20, 2013, 11:30 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, electronically filed his first-quarter campaign finance report today.)

A small but increasing number of U.S. senators — the only federal politicians still allowed to submit campaign finance reports on paper — are opting to voluntarily file their disclosures electronically.

Fifteen current senators chose to e-file their first-quarter campaign finance reports, which were due Monday, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

For Senate campaigns filing on paper, it can take weeks, if not months, to get detailed information about who is bankrolling senators and Senate hopefuls.

The FEC pays to manually key in the information contained on paper reports before uploading it into its publicly accessible online databases.

Similar information is available online immediately for House candidates, members of the U.S. House of Representative, presidential candidates and political action committees once those groups e-file their reports.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., one of the senators who e-files his campaign finance reports, has again introduced legislation to require his colleagues to follow suit. Last month, he also unsuccessfully attempted to mandate the practice via an amendment to the budget. He says that e-filing would save taxpayers nearly $500,000 a year.

President Barack Obama has supported the idea in his own budget proposals. Congress must decide for itself whether to adopt e-filing for senators as it has for House members.

Lawmakers of varying ideological stripes joined Tester in voluntarily fast-tracking their first-quarter fundraising disclosures.

In addition to Tester, the first-quarter e-filers were:

  • Max Baucus, D-Mont.
  • Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
  • Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
  • John Cornyn, R-Texas
  • Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.
  • Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
  • Al Franken, D-Minn.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
  • Angus King, I-Maine
  • Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
  • Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
  • Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
  • Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
  • Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Tester's Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, S. 375, certainly has 31 co-sponsors across party lines.

Rebekah Smith, King's campaign manager, told the Center for Public Integrity that King intends to continue to e-file his campaign finance disclosures. She added that the paper copy of his first-quarter report was submitted on time but that the "press of business, including an office move" accounted for the late e-filing this month.