Senators go to Web for transparency

Bills introduced this week would require senators to file campaign finance reports electronically and mandate a Web site to list the details of conference reports before senators can vote on them.

Several senators of both parties want to put more of their campaign and legislative information online. Legislation introduced Jan. 9 would require senators to file campaign finance reports electronically, as other candidates for federal offices must do. The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act (S. 223) is an exact copy of bills introduced in the previous two Congresses, but not did not become law. “The Senate should catch up with the House, the president and the many senators who already voluntarily file electronically by passing this reform,” said Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) in a statement.Currently, political parties, political action committees, presidential candidates and candidates for the House are required to file electronic finance reports with the Federal Election Commission. Only the Senate has a special exception from this requirement. This legislation would allow the public to quickly and easily access information about contributors to Senate campaigns, Feingold said. The bill has eight Republican co-sponsors along with 14 Democrats. Another bill introduced by Feingold and several co-sponsors on Jan. 9 emphasizes transparency in the legislative process. The measure (S. 230) would, among other things, require a Web site that would list the details of conference reports before senators could vote on them. The measure would also create a Senate Office of Public Integrity. The bill would require a public database for disclosing some of the senators’ dealings with lobbyists, while making the senators file quarterly -- instead of semiannually -- reports on those activities. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), a co-sponsor of the measure, has advocated greater transparency in the government. He worked in the last Congress to successfully pass legislation to require the White House to post contract and grant information on a public online database. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also sponsored the bill, which was sent to that committee for further review. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is another sponsor.
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