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Another view: E-disclosure of money is necessary

7:27 PM, Mar. 31, 2013  |  Comments
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In the 1976 movie "All the President's Men," actor Hal Holbrook, portraying the legendary albeit shadowy source "Deep Throat," advises Robert Redford, portraying Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward to "Just follow the money."

Whether the conversation ever took place in a parking garage - or ever at all - is Washington lore, but the advice was good when it comes to keeping an eye on government and our leaders. Money fuels campaigns, and where that cash comes from says a lot about who has influence over elected officials and their legislation.

That's why we're interested in a move on Capitol Hill to make information about campaign funding readily available. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, has introduced a bill that would require Senate candidates to file their quarterly campaign finance reports electronically, the Associated Press reported last week. Senators are required to file paper copies of their reports. The burdensome process means it can take months to prepare the reports. That leads to delays in making the information available for public scrutiny, makes it hard to search for information, and costs the U.S. government an estimated $500,000 a year to process, the AP reported.

Tester and a dozen or more of his colleagues already file their reports electronically. His philosophy behind the bill reflects his western roots: "This commonsense bill allows folds to know right away who's funding political campaigns," Tester told the AP.

The cost savings aside, the plan is a solid one and helps to make the actions of candidates and senators more transparent. It will give their constituents a better perspective into why their senator voted for or against a certain bill. It takes tens of millions to run a statewide campaign for the U.S. Senate. It's naive to think the campaigns are funded by $5 and $10 donations.

We strongly support any effort that gives citizens more information on a candidate. The average citizen can't get access to their senator. But they can research those in office - and those who want to be - and make better, informed decisions.

The Digital Age allows all of us to get connected to one another. Sharing information at the speed of light is the norm. Anything slower is unacceptable and, well, frankly useless. That's why we hope Tester's bill gets support.

We are seeing a rigorous struggle in Washington between Congress and the White House over which direction to take the country when it comes to spending and priorities. Having access to campaign funding information will help the citizens know who is really calling the shots.

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