WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved a measure Wednesday that would require senators, senate candidates and party committees to file their campaign finance reports in electronic format, seven years after the same requirement was placed on congressional and presidential candidates and other federal committees.
The move will make it easier for reporters and members of the public to review Senate fundraising activity, which currently has to be keyed into a computer by hand from paper documents, a process that can take months.
The measure, now headed for a vote in the full Senate where it is expected to pass, cleared an important hurdle when Utah Sen. Robert Bennett, a Republican, dropped plans to offer an amendment that Democrats feared would kill the bill's chances on the floor.
"Today the Senate is one step closer to catching up with the times," said Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, and Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, the legislation's leading proponents, in a joint statement. "We will ask the majority leader to bring the bill up promptly, so that in 2008 candidates for the Senate will be required to file their campaign finance reports electronically, as candidates for president and the House have done for years."
If enacted, the legislation will require all Senate candidates, including incumbents, and senate party committees to submit their campaign fundraising disclosures in a searchable electronic format starting in January 2008. Currently, senate campaign and party committees are the only federal committees that file their campaign finance documents on paper.
"Everyone agrees this is necessary," says Steve Weissman, the associate director for policy at the Campaign Finance Institute, a non-partisan organization that has been calling on the Senate to file electronically for years. "It's been way too long, but I'm very pleased that the Senate has acted by unanimous voice vote today."