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:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


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