Senate expected to pass Montana-crafted bill, bring transparency to Senate campaigns

Budget legislation to be considered by the U.S. Senate later this week includes a bill to increase transparency in Senate campaigns, requiring candidates to file financial disclosure reports electronically.

Sen. Jon Tester first introduced the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act 10 years ago. Come Friday, his long-sought measure could be on its way to becoming law, bringing added transparency to campaign finance reports.

“For 10 years, I have been fighting alongside Republicans and Democrats to bring more transparency to our elections,” Tester said in a statement. “The finish line is in sight and this bill will finally bring Senate campaigns into the 21st century.”

Sen. Steve Daines, also an advocate of the measure, shepherded the legislation through the process and included it in the final appropriations package, his spokesperson said.

“We got a big win with the efile provision. This is just good government,” Daines said in a statement. “The efile provision increases transparency and allows the American people to have a better understanding and greater access to what’s going on with campaign finances in U.S. Senate races.”

The bill will require candidates to electronically file financial disclosure reports with the Federal Election Commission, making them available to the public while saving taxpayers money.

Many Senate candidates currently file financial disclosures with the Secretary of the Senate on paper, which has to be scanned into electronic format. Tester said the process is expensive and takes months to process.

In contrast, candidates for the House already file electronically. The FEC has estimated that taxpayers would save $900,000 a year if the Senate did the same.

Tester first introduced the bill in 2008 and has reintroduced the measure each session of Congress ever since.

“Since my first day as a member of the U.S. Senate, I have worked to pass reforms that bring more transparency, accessibility and sunshine to government,” Tester said in 2008 when he first introduced the measure. “This legislation provides all Americans quick access to information that is critical for a functioning democracy.”