Campaign Legal Center Praises House Passage of Bill to Disclose Presidential Library Donors, Urges Senate to Follow Suit

CLC Staff
Jan 14, 2016
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On Monday, January 11, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote H.R. 1069, the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act, to reveal the identities of donors to presidential libraries, prompted by reports raising concerns about sitting Presidents fundraising for such institutions.  H.R. 1069 was introduced by Rep. John Duncan (R-TN).  A companion bill, S. 558, introduced by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), has been reported out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and is awaiting final action on the Senate floor.

Currently, donations to presidential libraries are not required by law to be disclosed.  There are no limits on the amount someone may contribute nor are there any limits on who may contribute.  Foreign individuals and even foreign governments may make a donation.  There are also no limits on sitting Presidents’ ability to solicit donors for their libraries.  President Obama has set a goal of raising $1 billion for his library. 

Concerns related to presidential libraries have arisen during the last three administrations.  A donation to the Clinton presidential library created the appearance of a link between the contribution and a presidential pardon for Marc Rich, an international financier who was indicted on federal charges for tax evasion and illegal oil deals with Iran.  President George H.W. Bush’s pardon of Edwin Cox, Jr., convicted of bank fraud, raised similar issues when Cox’s father made a generous contribution to President Bush’s library in College Station, Texas.  In 2008, longtime George W. Bush fundraisers were secretly videotaped by the London Times offering a foreign dignitary access to the White House in exchange for a $250,000 contribution to the Bush library.   

H.R. 1069 requires quarterly disclosure to the National Archives and Records Administration of every contributor who gives a presidential library a contribution (whether monetary or in-kind) of $200 or more.  It also requires the U.S. Archivist to publish the information on a website within 30 days after each quarterly filing.  The bill also prescribes criminal penalties for filing false information or for omitting information.

“It is troubling that sitting Presidents and their fundraisers are raising private funds for their presidential libraries,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director.  “It is a situation ripe for conflicts and for creating the appearance of influence-peddling.  While it might be preferable for Presidents to put their presidential library fundraising efforts on hold until they leave office, passage of H.R 1069 would be an important step in bringing needed transparency to a process that has remained opaque.”

“We urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to schedule H.R. 1069 or its Senate counterpart, S. 558, to the floor for final action expeditiously,” McGehee said.

To read H.R. 1069, click here

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