THEY SAY three times is a charm -- except when it comes to getting a common-sense bill through the Senate by unanimous consent that would require its members and candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically. The latest attempt was killed by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). At least he objected publicly.
Since April, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Rules and Administration Committee, has been trying to get the Senate to bring its filing system into the 21st century. Candidates for the House and for the White House have had to file their campaign finance reports electronically for years, as have political parties, political action committees and "527" groups. There is no good reason the Senate should not be doing the same.
Yet senators, particularly Republican senators, are blocking the innovation at every turn. The first two attempts at passage were beaten back with an anonymous hold. The reason was never given, and the identity of the objector not revealed, thanks to a fine Senate tradition. But after Congress approved the new ethics law last month, those who place holds on legislation must come forward within six days. Thus, Mr. Ensign objected publicly -- and offered a poison pill amendment.
Mr. Ensign wanted to add a provision to the electronic filing bill that would require an organization filing an ethics complaint against a senator to list donors who have given the group $5,000 or more. The idea deserves a debate in committee, as Ms. Feinstein offered. To try to push it through as a last-minute, non-germane add-on serves no purpose other than to kill the overall bill.