By Daniel Schuman
July 29, 2014

Seal of the US Presidential Libraries

Today a coalition of fifteen government transparency and accountability organizations expressed support for the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2014, introduced by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK). The legislation introduces a measure of transparency to fundraising for presidential libraries, which largely is unregulated and open for abuse.

Read the letter in support of reforming Presidential Library donations.

Currently, presidents raise funds privately to establish their presidential libraries. These efforts, which often begin long before presidents leave office, are unregulated and undisclosed, creating opportunities for, or the appearance of, influence-peddling. Donations have been connected to a series of scandals.

In response, the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act requires presidential library fundraising organizations to submit quarterly reports to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on entities that have contributed $200 or more towards the fundraising organization in a single quarter. Presidential library fundraising organizations must submit reports to NARA until both the president is out of office and the fundraising organization and the Archivist have reached an agreement on the use of the library. Reports must include the amount of the contribution, the address of the contributor, the date of the contribution, and the occupation of the contributor if made by an individual. In turn, NARA must publish the reports online in a searchable, sortable, downloadable format within 30 days of receipt.

A companion measure introduced by Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) was favorably reported by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the House of Representatives. The House bill also garnered significant public support. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in previous years. (More background on the House bill is here.) Tomorrow, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is expected to mark-up the legislation.

The fifteen organizations that expressed their support for the Senate bill include:

  • American Library Association
  • Campaign Legal Center
  • Center for Effective Government
  • Center for Media and Democracy
  • Center for Responsive Politics
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
  • Democracy 21
  • Northern California Association of Law Libraries
  • Progressive Librarians Guild
  • Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
  • Public Citizen
  • Society of Professional Journalists
  • Sunlight Foundation

Read the letter in support of reforming Presidential Library donations.