John Walsh, the Montana Democrat who was sworn in as a U.S. senator today, is following in predecessor Max Baucus’ footsteps by embracing legislation designed to make campaign funding more transparent.
Like Baucus before him, Walsh plans to co-sponsor the Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, the Center for Public Integrity has learned. The bill requires senators and Senate candidates to electronically file their campaign finance disclosures with the Federal Election Commission. Its main sponsor is fellow Montanan Jon Tester, who is also a Democrat.
“Montanans expect and deserve transparency, accountability and responsibility from those who represent them in Congress,” Walsh said in a statement.
Baucus was recently tapped by President Barack Obama to be the next U.S. ambassador to China.
Electronic filing of campaign finance documents is already mandatory for House members, House candidates, presidential candidates and political action committees.
But senators are exempt: They still file their reports on paper with the office of the Secretary of the State, which, in turn, sends the materials to the FEC, which hires a contractor to key in the data.
E-filing would save taxpayers about $500,000 a year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.
Walsh has already shown a propensity to voluntarily e-file his reports with the FEC, submitting his fourth-quarter campaign finance documents with the agency last week. And he plans to continue to do so, said Lauren Smith, his spokeswoman.
In doing so, Walsh will be joining a growing number of incumbent senators who have adopted the practice of voluntarily e-filing the reports.
Walsh has been the favorite of national Democrats to fill the opening created when Baucus announced his intention to retire, rather than seek re-election, last April.
Walsh, the state’s lieutenant governor and former adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, kicked off a Senate bid in October. He was running for the spot against several Democratic primary candidates, including former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, who has said he will probably end his campaign now that Walsh has been appointed to office.
Freshman Rep. Steve Daines is expected to be the GOP contender in what could be one of the most competitive U.S. Senate races this year.
Walsh raised $583,000 during the fourth-quarter of 2013 and ended the year with about $436,000 in the bank, according to his most recent campaign finance filing. For his part, Daines ended the year with about $1.9 million in his campaign war chest.
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