On Friday, the vast majority of the United States senators, in a bipartisan display of arrogance, proved once more how little they think of the people who elect them.
Most senators, including the ones who face re-election in 2014, failed to file their public campaign finance reports online with the Federal Election Commission, again.
Candidates for House seats, for the presidency, and for most state legislatures long ago began filing their campaign reports electronically, posting them on the Internet for any interested voter to see.
But not the U.S. Senate.
They get away with ignoring the Internet because they make their own rules. Acting like emperors, they have collectively decided that the identities of their donors and how they spend their campaign money are nobody’s business.
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan investigative reporting operation based in Washington, D.C., is the latest news organization to criticize the Senate for failing to file reports online, last week reporting that as many as 80 senators fail to file online.
The center reported that the Senate financial services bill included an e-filing requirement. But when the bill was folded into the larger budget bill approved in January, the e-filing provision had disappeared.
The Bee’s editorial board also has urged the Senate to enter the Internet age, writing in an editorial in February 2012 that senators needed to file online, to no avail.
There’s nothing to prevent senators from voluntarily filing their reports. Some do. California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer routinely file their reports online. In the past, Feinstein promised to force the issue. But she failed to persuade her colleagues that they ought to enter the Internet age. It’s simply not a high enough priority.
Most senators take the carrier pigeon route, printing out reports and mailing them to the Senate secretary. The secretary faxes the reports to the Federal Election Commission, which copies and delivers them to a private vendor. There, clerks key-punch in some of the information and return the reports to the Federal Election Commission, which posts them online, days or weeks after they’ve been filed.
The process costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It’s not the senators’ money, so they don’t care. Voters should.