For months, the Senate Republican leadership have worked to block a Senate bill that would make campaign contributions to Senate candidates immediately and easily searchable. Perhaps figuring that honey works better than vinegar, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) yesterday to ask if he would compromise on the latest effort to sink the bill. We've pasted the letter below.
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All the bill would do is require Senate campaign reports to be filed electronically. That's it. The House started doing that six years ago, and journalists, watchdogs, and others constantly rely on the House's easily searchable records to see who's giving to campaigns. The speed of that reporting is especially crucial near the end of campaigns, when Senate candidates' voluminous paper filings, often hundreds of pages long, can make it much harder to figure out a candidates' supporters.
The bill has forty co-sponsors, including sixteen Republicans. Time is running out for the bill to affect the 2008 elections.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has worked to block the bill for months. And Ensign, coincidentally also the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (which works to get Republicans elected to the Senate), stepped up this September to employ a canny strategy of attaching a "poison pill" amendment to the bill. We'd laid out the whole scheme here.
In her letter yesterday, Feinstein asks Ensign to be flexible on his offered amendment, which would require all non-profits that file ethics complaints against senators to disclose all donors who gave $5,000 or more.
Last week, a group of watchdogs from left and right wrote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and McConnell to ask that they defeat Ensign's amendment, calling it "a clear attempt to intimidate the public from seeking enforcement of Senate ethics rules."