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Senate Disclosure Bill Will Get Clean Vote

A bill streamlining how Senators file their campaign finance records moved one step closer to reality Wednesday, as both parties agreed to set aside potentially controversial amendments that likely would have stalled the measure’s passage.

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee this afternoon approved by voice vote a bill co-written by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) that would require Senators and their challengers to file electronic versions of their campaign finance disclosure statements. House and presidential campaigns, as well as political action committees, have electronically filed their reports to the Federal Election Commission for years.

“This is a major stop forward in bringing the Senate into the modern era,” said Rules Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “This is a common sense measure, and I hope we can pass this bill out of the Senate without burdening it with extraneous items that will hold up passage.”

Senate campaigns now file hard copies of their disclosure statements — almost always printed versions of electronic forms generated by the accounting software used by political campaigns. The process adds weeks to data’s availability online and requires the Federal Election Commission to pay a contractor roughly $250,000 a year to convert the documents back into electronic form.

Rules ranking member Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and other Republicans sought to attach language to the bill involving coordinated spending limits, a move that drew the ire of some Democrats and accusations by some reform groups that the GOP had planted a “poison pill” — an accusation Bennett vigorously denied.

But with Feinstein’s assurances to revisit coordinated spending limits along with a half-dozen or more campaign finance matters during the coming months, Bennett agreed to remove the language.

“I’m not trying to gum up the works,” Bennett said at Wednesday’s markup. “I’m not trying to sneak anything by anybody.”

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