Democrats Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Kamala Harris of California did something last week that no other non-incumbent U.S. Senate candidates did: They electronically filed copies of their campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.
In a throwback to the age of typewriters and snail mail, Senate candidate must still, by law, submit their official campaign finance reports on paper.
A bipartisan bill — known as the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act — would force Senate candidates to file digitally, just as presidential candidates, U.S. House candidates and political action committees have done for nearly a generation.
Paper campaign finance records are more difficult to analyze and aren’t readily available to the public for days after being filed. Digital records are publicly accessible and easily searchable from the moment they’re submitted to FEC officials.
But until the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act bill (or one like) is adopted, Senate candidates who opt to e-file remain a rarity — even as campaigns have made digital tools, from social media such as Facebook and Snapchat to complex analytics software, cornerstones of their political efforts.
“For the most part, people aren’t going to go above and beyond what they have to do by law,” said Adam Smith, the communications director of the advocacy group Every Voice, which supports e-filing. “It makes absolutely no sense that the Senate doesn’t file electronically.”
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has, in the past, been blamed for blocking the e-filing legislation, did not respond to a request for comment.