CREW Leads Effort to Pass Disclosure Law for Presidential Library Fundraising

White HouseWashington, D.C.—Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and more than 20 other organizations today urged the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives to bring the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act (H.R. 1133) to the floor for a vote. The bipartisan bill would bring much-needed transparency to the murky world of presidential libraries, where sitting presidents raise unlimited amounts of money without any transparency. The bill would require fundraising groups to submit quarterly reports on contributions and contributors.

“Donating to build a presidential library is a great way to curry favor with a sitting president.  Allowing any president — no matter who holds the office — to raise unlimited, undisclosed donations is an invitation to corruption.  Just as campaign contributions must be disclosed, so too should library contributions,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said.

Previously, there has been some controversy related to donations to the libraries of other presidents:

  • In 2008, a Houston businessman with ties to President George W. Bush was caught offering a potential donor access to White House officials in exchange for a $250,000 presidential library contribution.
  • In 2001, billionaire Marc Rich was pardoned by President Bill Clinton on his last day in office after Rich’s ex-wife donated a total of $450,000 for the Clinton library. Rich had been on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Ten Most-Wanted Fugitives List for years after being indicted on charges of tax evasion, violating the ban on trade with Iran during the oil embargo, and other crimes.

President Obama’s recently launched presidential library foundation reportedly pledged to disclose all contributions of $200 or more on a quarterly basis.  This pledge is not, however, legally binding on President Obama or future presidents. In addition, no oversight mechanism exists to ensure the foundation complies with this commitment, nor is it clear how the records will be disclosed, what they will contain, or whether they will be maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

H.R. 1133 would require presidential library fundraising groups to submit quarterly reports on donors that make donations above a certain threshold to support a presidential library. NARA would be required to make the reports available in a public, searchable database. CREW led a coalition of 22 transparency and good government groups in sending a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging them to schedule a vote on H.R. 1133 as soon as possible.

Click here to read the letter

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