The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

February 21, 2012
Sen. Al Franken plans to enter the Internet Age; 90 more to go

Sen. Al Franken has been urging more disclosure of campaign money as the implications become clear of court decisions that open the way for heavier spending by corporations. That's good.

Now, the Minnesota Democrat is contemplating taking a step toward greater disclosure of his own campaign finances by stepping into the Internet age. That's good, too.

Franken is one of eight senators who last week signed a letter to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman urging that he take a more aggressive approach toward nonprofit corporations that engage in electioneering.

In an editorial today, The Bee lauds the senators for writing to the IRS. The editorial also urges those senators--and the rest of the Senate--to become more transparent by filing their campaign finance statements with the Federal Election Commission online for display on the Internet, rather than in paper, as Senate rules permit.

As part of the reporting for the editorial, The Bee asked the eight senators why they fail to file their reports online, and instead follow a Senate tradition by filing paper copies, which wastes more than $250,000 a year as noted in this column, and limits voters' ability to see who funds their campaign.

Seven of them--Charles Schumer of New York, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Michael F. Bennet of Colorado, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Tom Udall of New Mexico--ignored the question or explained that they comply with the senate rules, antiquated though they are.

Franken, by contrast, seems to be having second thoughts about the wisdom of sticking to paper.

"Sen. Franken has always been in the habit of filing his FEC reports manually, but will likely file them electronically going forward," Franken's spokesman, Ed Shelleby, said in an email to The Bee.

If Franken follows through, he would be one of about 10 senators who regularly submit their reports online to the FEC. That would leave a mere 90 senators to go.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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