recommended reading

84 Senators Still Stand for the Tyranny of Paper

Chatchai Kritsetsakul/

Even the House of Representatives does it. Say what you will about the dysfunction in that chamber, but at least all 435 members are required to file their campaign finance reports online. The Senate? Not so much.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, just 16 of the 100 senators filed their reports electronically for the second quarter of this year. That's up one senator (Jack Reed, D-R.I.) from the first quarter filings. Of the 16 e-filers, 12 are Democrats, two are independents, and two are Republicans. For the complete list, check out CPI.

But so what if the remaining senators prefer ink-and-paper files? Last week, the Sunlight Foundation published an open letter to the remaining holdouts to explain the stakes. It's just grossly ineffective, and can delay financial disclosures to a time potentially after November elections. (Emphasis mine.)

Unfortunately, exempting Senators and Senate Candidates from mandatory electronic filing has resulted in delayed disclosure of critical campaign finance information. Senators file reports with the Secretary of the Senate, who delivers the paper copies to the FEC. That agency must then manually input the data from thousands of pages of paper into databases before the information can be made public in a searchable, usable manner.

Who would want that job? Anyway, USA Today reported in March that the paper filing costs around $500,000—and several weeks worth of wasted time. From the senators' offices, the reports are passed to the Office of Public Records, which then scans the pages, and submits to the FEC. The FEC then contracts out the reports to be made electronic. What's ironic, USA Today pointed out, is that the FEC gives out free software to compile reports. If the Senate offices used that software themselves, it would cut out the middleman.

In February, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced a bill to require all senators to file electronically. It hasn't moved very far since.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.