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house Bill H.R. 1063

Should Donations to Presidential Library Foundations be Disclosed?

Argument in favor

Making a donation towards a presidential library is essentially a political donation, but without campaign contribution limits — meaning that it can be a way to buy influence if it isn't monitored.

spiritof12's Opinion
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02/10/2019
All political donations should be reported publicly. Best example what can happen is the current investigation.
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02/10/2019
So if Trump is impeached and sent to prison, do we instead name a prison after him?
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Richard 's Opinion
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02/10/2019
I think donations to any government agency or related to presidential library or anything should be reported made public
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Argument opposed

Many of the people making a donation of $200 or more aren’t doing it to buy influence — they want to preserve history. It seems unfair to treat a $200 donation the same as a $200,000 donation.

Gopin2018's Opinion
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02/10/2019
No I’m in opposition to this Democratic bill as written. #MAGA
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KyleCorley's Opinion
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02/10/2019
I am not seeing how making a donation to a library is like making a political donation to a campaign
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Diane's Opinion
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02/10/2019
Presidential libraries are built long after the president has left office when donations couldn’t be used to influenced the president. Therefore it wouldn’t be necessary for the public to know who’s contributing to the library.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
    IntroducedFebruary 7th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1063?

This bill would require organizations that fundraise for presidential libraries to report donor information and donation amounts on a quarterly basis. The data would then be displayed — in a free, searchable, sortable, and downloadable format — on the National Archives website within 30 days of receiving the fundraising organization’s report.

The reporting requirements would apply to all donations (either monetary or in-kind) that exceed $200 in value. Donor names, addresses, occupations, and the amount of the donation would all be made publicly available. These requirements would be in effect while the President is in office, and would end when the President leaves office or when the federal government assumes control of the library — whichever happens later.

Impact

Organizations that fundraise for presidential libraries and the people and entities that donate to them, presidential reputations, and the National Archives.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1063

The CBO estimates that implementing this legislation would cost about $1 million over the 2016-2020 period.

More Information

Of Note: Rep. Elijah Cummings reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to to require presidential libraries to disclose their donor information and therefore bring conflicts of interest to light. When previous sponsor Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) introduced this bill in the 113th Congress in 2013, he said:

“Presidential library fundraising organizations are formed while a president is in office and collect donations from individuals, corporations and foreign governments with no limit on the contribution amount. When there is no requirement for disclosing the donor or the amounts being donated, there is great potential for abuse... This is not a partisan issue. I introduced and have supported this legislation under both Democratic and Republican presidents."

After this bill passed the House last Congress, Rep. Duncan added

"The public should be made aware of possible conflicts of interest that sitting presidents can have or may have while raising funds for their libraries. We do not know who these donors to the presidential libraries are or what interests they may have on any pending policy decisions that are to be made."

The Sunlight Foundation, which supports this bill, argues that presidential libraries are currently the "Wild West" of political fundraising:

"Firstly, donor names should be required to be disclosed. Relying on voluntary disclosures means that the rules are flexible and there are no consequences for omission. The public has a need to know this kind of information. Second, donor names should be online in a machine-readable format. Making paper copies available at a distant library at 10 cents a page is a laughable form of transparency. We easily should be able to take the donor names and compare them against lists of pardon-seekers, lobbyists, and campaign-donors. Finally, donor names should be disclosed in a timely fashion. George W. Bush has been out of office for five years, and the corruption-deterring value has attenuated with time’s passage. Being able to see whether there’s a relationship between donation and presidential action is invaluable. While we would prefer even more frequent reporting, [this] bill’s requirement of quarterly reporting is a huge step forward. Presidential libraries are the wild west of presidential fundraising. It takes place when presidents are the least accountable and involves tremendous amounts of secret money. Now’s the time to fix this loophole."

Issue One adds that this bill brings much-needed transparency to the presidential library donation process, ensuring that the public knows whether these institutions are being used for influence peddling:

"[This] legislation would bring much-needed transparency to the process of funding these repositories of important parts of our national history. The public deserves to know if these institutions are turning into pathways for favors and influence peddling."

Donations to presidential libraries have been under scrutiny since the Clinton administration. In 2000 it was discovered that Denise Rich donated $450,000 to the Clinton presidential library prior to President Clinton pardoning Ms. Rich’s husband who was wanted on 51 counts of tax and mail fraud, racketeering, and illegally violating a trade embargo with Iran.

During the George W. Bush administration, a former lobbyist suggested that a foreign politician should make a $250,000 donation to the Bush library in order to secure meetings with senior members of the administration. Currently, the Obama Foundation — which raises money for President Obama’s presidential library — only provides ranges for the amounts of donations it has received.

This bill has one cosponsor in the current Congress, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). Last Congress, Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) introduced this bill with one cosponsor, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and secured its passage in the House by voice vote. This bill has historically had the support of the Sunlight Foundation, Demand Progress, the Center for Responsive Politics, and others.


In-Depth: This legislation has a long  if unsuccessful  history in Congress. Previous versions passed the House in 2002, 2007 (when it was blocked in the Senate), and 2009. It was introduced in the House in 2013, where it survived committee but did not see a floor vote, and it was introduced in the Senate in 2014 only to meet a similar fate.

Under current law, presidential libraries are built with private funds, then turned over to the National Archives to administer with a mix of public and private money. The private money can be raised in any amount, from any source, including foreign governments and people or companies seeking government favors. Since there aren't any disclosure requirements, donors' identities remain secret. However, since sitting presidents can begin fundraising for their libraries long before leaving office, this presents a major opportunity for corruption.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user FDR Presidential Library & Museum)

AKA

Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2019

Official Title

To amend title 44, United States Code, to require information on contributors to Presidential library fundraising organizations, and for other purposes.

    All political donations should be reported publicly. Best example what can happen is the current investigation.
    Like (82)
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    No I’m in opposition to this Democratic bill as written. #MAGA
    Like (14)
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    So if Trump is impeached and sent to prison, do we instead name a prison after him?
    Like (58)
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    I think donations to any government agency or related to presidential library or anything should be reported made public
    Like (36)
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    Duh! The need for doing this is obvious. Secret donations are only needed to cover corruption.
    Like (26)
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    Yes I support disclosure of any and all political donations to federal candidates period.
    Like (24)
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    Donations to presidential libraries often have strings attached. Reveal all potential conflicts by making them public. Support this bill.
    Like (23)
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    👎🏻 H.R.1063 - To amend title 44, United States Code, to require information on contributors to Presidential library fundraising organizations, and for other purposes.👎🏻 I’d be in opposition to this Democratic Rep Cummings. House bill H.R. 1063 which would require organizations that fundraise for presidential libraries to report donor information and donation amounts on a quarterly basis. The data would then be displayed — in a free, searchable, sortable, and downloadable format — on the National Archives website within 30 days of receiving the fundraising organization’s report. If I desire to donate $250 to the Reagan or any other Presidential Library, it’s none any Political Representative’s business as I’m a Private Citizen and I can donate to whom ever I want. If the bill is passed, would we be seeing a listing of ALL political private donations to Representative Elijah Cummings Or Speaker Pelosi’s? I really doubt it. Many of the people making a donation of $200 or more aren’t doing it to buy influence — they want to preserve history. It seems unfair to treat a $200 donation the same as a $200,000 donation.
    Like (21)
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    Transparency is always the best option.
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    We need transparency.
    Like (17)
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    I support this bill. Anytime money and politics converge, the potential for abuse exists. Leave no dark corners where improper influence or fraud can flourish. There is no such thing as too much sunshine.
    Like (15)
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    Yes, all donations should be disclosed. Secrecy surrounding donations to the presidential library? You know they’re up to no good. Shady AF.
    Like (11)
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    As a public official, by choice, all financial information should be public! Lack of transparency only breeds corruption!
    Like (10)
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    JUST LIKE ANY OTHER DONATION IT IS PART OF THE RECORD THAT IS TO BE PUBLIC
    Like (9)
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    Donations should be disclosed. We should know who is buying our politicians.
    Like (8)
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    All money that goes into any form of political organization or donations to a candidate should be completely transparent and visible to the general voting population.
    Like (8)
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    This law would inform of conflicts of interest while the president is in office. Donors would not be tracked when the person is no longer in office. We have seen much abuse of conflicts of interest. This law is a simple way to address one such conflict of influence peddling.
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    There’s absolutely no good reason they should be hidden.
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    Any money for any reason or excuse should be disclosed as it may be taken and used for another purpose entirely. Trump gutted his foundation and then talked like a philanthropist.
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    Shouldn’t this be a source of pride? Why would they need to hide something like this? Only reason is that they are using this is to curry favor which is pay to play
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