The Federal Election Commission wrote Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to ask why it hasn't yet received a paper copy of her campaign finance report for final three months of 2013.
And it's no love letter.
"It is important that you file this report immediately," Deborah Chacona, the assistant staff director in the FEC's Reports Analysis Division, told McCaskill's campaign committee on Wednesday. "The failure to timely file a complete report may result in civil money penalties, an audit or legal enforcement action."
McCaskill's response? Blame the U.S. Postal Service.
"The McCaskill campaign did in fact mail in (and voluntarily electronically file) its year-end FEC report on time, but the USPS inadvertently failed to deliver it, even though it had been mailed to the correct PO Box," McCaskill spokesman John LaBombard explained to Center for Public Integrity in an email. "The campaign immediately contacted the FEC to alert them to the USPS’s error, and has re-mailed the hard copy of the report."
The filing snafu highlights the Senate's arcane campaign finance disclosure rules.
Indeed, McCaskill is among a small group of senators who voluntarily submit their campaign reports electronically.
This digital version of her report — currently available for anyone to review on the FEC's website — shows McCaskill raised about $87,000 during the final quarter of 2013, primarily from a variety of individuals and political action committees, and by renting out her supporter lists. Her campaign ended the year with $148,707 cash on hand and $35,000 in debt — money the campaign owes to McCaskill personally.
But Senate campaign finance reports submitted electronically are not considered official documents by either the Senate or government regulators. Only paper copies will do. Senators, therefore, must continue sending hard copy documents to the FEC to comply with federal law.
When the FEC receives the hard copies, it will then — at taxpayer expense — convert the paper filings into electronic form.
McCaskill is also one among 35 senators sponsoring legislation aimed at requiring themselves and fellow senators to file official campaign finance reports digitally. Most sponsors are Democrats or independents, although several Republicans, including Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have also signed on.
Members of the U.S. House have been e-filing campaign finance reports for years.
The six-member FEC in December formally recommended to Congress that it change federal law to require senators to e-file their campaign finance reports — and ditch mailed-in paper documents.