Will 2017 be the year the Senate fully embraces the digital revolution?
Sure, senators use Twitter, Facebook and even Snapchat. But they’re strictly analogue when disclosing information about their campaign finances.
That’s where a new bill from Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, comes in.
Dubbed the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, Tester’s legislation, which the Center for Public Integrity has learned will be formally introduced today, would require U.S. 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 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, according to research and reporting by the Center for Public Integrity.
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 U.S. Constitution to clamp down on corporate politicking. Both face long odds in the Republican-controlled Congress.