Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ridiculous Law of the Week - Part 8 - Campaign Finance Senate Style

I don't have the citation offhand outside of PDF regulations, but as you'd guess, I would know this one. I do not often agree with Rich Robinson of Michigan's Campaign Finance Network. I'm not a big BCRA fan at all and support unlimited donation limits with full disclosure. However, this is bad.

The Free Press had this out. It's not entirely accurate, but it's close.

In this digital age of immediate news and information, the U.S. Senate is still stuck firmly in 20th Century.
Under arcane Senate rules, candidates don't have to file their campaign finance reports electronically and can, instead, go through a tedious process that holds up reports for weeks, even months.
"It allows them to hide who is bankrolling their campaigns," said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, which tracks campaign spending. "When you think about the time and money they're wasting to play this stupid game, they really ought to be ashamed of themselves."
For the past decade, candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and president of the U.S. and political action committees have been required to file their campaign finance reports electronically with the Federal Elections Commission. The e-filing system, which also is used for most state office candidates, allows for almost immediate access to campaign finance reports -- which reveal who is contributing to campaigns and how candidates are spending their money.

I agree with using electronic filing for US Senate races. It makes it easier and in practicality for senate reports, we use FECFile anyway for limit checks, validation, and data entry so we can print the long reports on the computer easier. I have to make a correction. If we are treasurers for US Senate campaigns - we HAVE to go by hand. It is required. There is no "don't have to file" electronically. We are not allowed to do so and you can check the FEC's candidate committee manual to find that in the small print. I can't just send it electronically to the FEC. We aren't directly governed by the FEC, but the Secretary of the Senate. That means I have to print out the dozens of pages of data from FECFile, mail it to Virginia, and keep checking to make sure they have it. It creates more work, and worse, I'm not 100% in control of the situation. It's not like I can just drive off to DC if there's a problem unlike Howell or Lansing. 

One other thing not mentioned  with the extra day is that there's two different possible due dates. For example April 15th was the last due date. It was a Sunday, so in reality it was moved up to the 13th (unlike taxes). If the report was sent on the 13th using regular first class mail, then the committee better open up its checkbook. Under first class mail, the Secretary of the Senate needs to receive the report by the 15th. If certified mail is used, it's okay, even though it's still first class mail in delivery time. The due date under certified mail is by postmarked. Needless to day, I always use certified to be safe.

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