Sen. Luddite Strikes Again

Friday, April 27, 2007

JUST AS she did on April 17, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) went to the Senate floor to call for unanimous consent on a common-sense bill that would require candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically. And just as he or she did on April 17, Sen. Ima Luddite (R-Who Knows Where) voiced opposition. This time the mouthpiece was Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). "On behalf of the Republican side," he said, "I object." We object to the obstruction.

Honestly, what is the big deal here? Filing campaign finance reports electronically has been standard operating procedure for candidates for the House of Representatives and the White House for years -- as it has been for political parties, political action committees and "527" groups. Yet Senate candidates are still trudging down to the Senate Office of Public Records with paper copies of their reports, which are then passed along to the Federal Election Commission, which sends them to a vendor that punches in the information and zaps it back to the FEC electronically. That finally makes them widely available, sometimes too late for voters to see who's donating to whom and how the money is being spent. With this seeming fear of modernity, it's a wonder the Senate isn't calculating budgets with an abacus. Or is it a fear of disclosure?

After the bill was blocked, Ms. Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said, "It is very hard for me to understand who could oppose this and what their reason for opposing it could be." It is very hard for us, too. Sen. Luddite -- whoever he or she may be -- should come out of the shadows and explain the irrational fear that is keeping the Senate from joining the rest of us in the 21st century.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company