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National Editorial & Columnists

Actions speak louder than Kirk’s, Durbin’s words

Illinois’ two U.S. senators, Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, claim they’re all for electronic filing of campaign finance reports – but unfortunately not enough to actually do it.

This is Sunshine Week, a national project to shine light on public records. And one of the places where more light is desperately needed is in the U.S. Senate.

House members file their campaign finance disclosures online, which gives the public quick access to the information. But senators keep short-circuiting measures that would require such timely reporting by them.

Instead, they file paper reports that later are converted for the Internet. It’s an inefficient, costly system that means the public waits days or weeks to see information about campaign finance, possibly until after an election.

Taxpayers pay about $430,000 a year to a private company to key in the data and eventually get it online.

Here’s a statement from a Durbin spokesman about electronic filing: “We’d love to be able to file our reports electronically. ... There is a bill pending before the Senate that would require the Office of Public Records to accept electronic filings, and Senator Durbin supports the measure.”

And from a Kirk spokeswoman: “The senator is supportive of electronic campaign disclosure filing, and if a bill is brought to the floor requiring all future filings to be done electronically, he would support it.”

Great, but how about backing up those words with action?

The spokesmen never explained why their bosses don’t file electronically now in addition to paper filing – something nearly 20 senators already do. That would show their seriousness about the issue and put pressure on their colleagues to approve the change.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill from Missouri, one of the voluntary filers, sets the right tone: “As I support legislation requiring electronic filing, I believe that I should voluntarily hold myself to that same high standard until we’re able to get that bill across the finish line.”

We urge you to contact Durbin and Kirk and ask them to push for a Senate vote on mandatory electronic filing – and call on them to file electronically voluntarily in the meantime.

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