Senate Democrats are making one last try to bring their chamber’s campaign finance records into the 21st century, but their effort to attach to it a critical government funding bill will likely require them to make concessions to Republicans to succeed. Unlike House candidates, presidential hopefuls and political action committees, Senate candidates are not required to electronically file their campaign finance reports. The result: Reporters, campaign finance experts and everyone else must manually scroll through Sen. Mary Landrieu’s latest pre-runoff fundraising report, which clocks in at nearly 1,300 pages and is not searchable. So some Senate Democrats are pushing for a bill requiring e-filing to be attached to an expected omnibus government spending bill that would fund the government until next September, according to sources in both parties familiar with the discussions. With Republicans taking the Senate in January, Democrats are hoping for one last opportunity to modernize the campaign finance record-keeping by marrying it with the must-pass omnibus.
The bill was written by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and has 52 co-sponsors — including 10 Republicans. However, Senate Democrats are unlikely to win passage of such a provision without some concession to GOP members. Republicans would likely insist on including one of their preferred campaign finance measures in return for the the e-filing legislation.
One such proposal that Republicans have floated as a trade-off would relax some coordination rules between political parties and outside groups and effectively override existing spending limits for coordinated spending between political parties and candidates.
That may be difficult for Democrats to swallow. “I don’t fully understand what he’s trying to do, but if it looks to me that he’s trying [for] less transparency, then that’s not what I’m about,” Tester said of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).