Las Vegas Sun

October 16, 2019

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Editorial: A bid against openness

Sen. John Ensign has managed to single-handedly stall legislation that would have required U.S. senators to electronically disclose the sources of last-minute campaign contributions.

As noted in a story by the Las Vegas Sun on Thursday, electronic disclosure is required for every federal race except for those in the Senate, where senators have been allowed to continue using regular U.S. Postal Service mail to submit the disclosure form.

This means that the public cannot find out which groups or people gave donations to senators in the last days before an election, which means voters don't have access to complete information before they cast their ballots.

Disclosure of such information is required because it is important to know whether - or how much - a candidate is receiving in contributions from special interests.

The Senate has tried three times this year to pass legislation that would require its members to step into the 21st century in disclosing campaign finance information, the Sun's Lisa Mascaro reports. Twice, Republican senators blocked the bill anonymously, using a practice that no longer is allowed.

This week, on the Senate's third attempt, Ensign, a Nevada Republican, tried to attach an amendment that has nothing to do with campaign disclosures, but was contentious enough to stall the legislation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., author of the legislation, refused to accept Ensign's amendment because of its controversial nature.

Ensign, who claims he supports electronic disclosure, says his amendment - which would require nonprofit groups that file ethics complaints against senators to disclose their financial backers - is not an attempt to block the Senate from improving its disclosure methods.

That's hard to believe, seeing as how that is exactly what Ensign's proposal has done. Ensign says he supports transparency in campaign finance disclosure. But what's most transparent in this situation is Ensign's effort to stymie much-needed campaign finance reform.