How Senators Hide Their Donors

Senators seeking reelection and those candidates running for the Senate should switch from filing campaign-finance reports on paper to filing electronically. That way, the public will learn more quickly - on the Web - who are the donors to these campaigns.

In an obvious attempt to delay release of such information, the Senate voted in 2000 - just before elections that year - to exempt itself and its party committees from filing electronically with the Federal Election Commission.

As a result, all the paper reports have been sent to the Secretary of the Senate, then scanned - page by laborious page - into computers, and then sent to the FEC. The result? The information is available only after the election. A vote now in favor of electronic filing by the august body would show that senators don't place themselves above all the other federal election candidates who file directly into cyberspace. Sens. John McCain (R) of Arizona and Russ Feingold (D) of Wisconsin have introduced a bill to make the switch. The Senate should accept the measure.

An irony here is that at least 99 senators said in a survey by the nonprofit Campaign Finance Institute that they use computers to assemble their paper reports.

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