S. 223 — Demanding Accountability from Our Representatives

Currently, candidates for Congress or president are required to disclose campaign contributions to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in electronic form. Essentially, this provision ensures that all relevant financial information is available to the masses quickly, and that any shenanigans can be discovered before Election Day. However, if you're lucky enough to be a member of the Senate, you can effectively delay disclosure by just delivering the necessary documents on paper, possibly covering up unsavory details.

The Sunlight Foundation launched PASS 223 in August to use the power of the Web to force the Senate to pass common-sense legislation. S. 223, The Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, requires senators to disclose their campaign contributions electronically, just like the House has been doing for years.

Right now, senators file their reports with the Secretary of the Senate, who then prints them out and delivers the reports in paper to the FEC. The information is only available to the public after the FEC inputs the data into its computer databases. This process takes months, wastes hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars and, most importantly, delays real public analysis of who funds Senate campaigns until after the election.

The bill has been stuck in legislative limbo because a single senator, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), insists that a controversial, irrelevant amendment should be voted on in conjunction with S. 223.

I have no idea why Sen. Ensign would halt the progress on this bill, but it is clear Ensign is stalling this bill for no legitimate purpose. His deliberate attempts to prevent progress are suspicious.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also responded to this bill with suspicious behavior. McConnell tried to keep Ensign’s identity a secret, refusing to identify the only representative who has been keeping the bill from passing. Why would McConnell respond to a government transparency bill with even more secrecy?

A half-dozen reform-minded groups have joined the Sunlight Foundation on Pass223.com, which guides the public through simple steps to urge their senators to pass this bill and oppose without Ensign's amendment. Participants can even log their calls on the site, describing the response they received from their senators. I love any example of participatory democracy, and this site is the perfect illustration of what power the public can have over our representatives.

Most Americans assume that our politicians are corrupt, but I like to think that corruption is rare and scandalous — it seems to be more prevalent than it actually is. I want to give MConnell and Ensign the benefit of the doubt, but their behavior indicates that they are hiding something. Why are they so concerned about this bill passing?

It's a great effort to get this long-overdue bill passed, and the last chance for the Senate to vote on this initiative will be right after Election Day. Visit Pass223.com, call your representatives, and after you describe your call on the site, use the comments section to tell the rest of us what you encountered.

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