This bill — the Inaugural Fund Integrity Act (IFIA) — would close several loopholes in the Inaugural Committee structure which allow for abuse of funds. This bill would prohibit donations to inaugural funds from foreign nations or corporations, as well as from so-called “straw” donors, where donations are directed through shell entities to hide their true origins. It’d also place a $50,000 cap on any donation to an inaugural committee and prohibit personal uses of inaugural funds, so that inaugural funds can only be used for their legitimate government purpose of planning and celebrating an inauguration. Finally, this bill would require inaugural committees to file a report with the Federal Elections Committee (FEC) disclosing information about all donations received and disbursements made by the committee.This bill has been adopted into H.R. 1, the For the People Act.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on AdministrationIntroducedFebruary 26th, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 1382?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 1382
In-Depth: Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to establish limits on donations to inaugural committees and require those donations and disbursements to be disclosed:
“The lack of oversight of inaugural committees has raised the specter of quid pro quo deals currently being investigated with this administration. In an effort to restore faith in our democratic institutions, we need to write the ethical norms circumvented by this administration into law. I believe the Inaugural Fund Integrity Act is a critical component in our path towards a government that works for the people.”
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the lead author of H.R. 1 and Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force, is an original cosponsor of this bill and praised it as an important step toward reforming the presidential inauguration process:
“Congresswoman Scanlon has been a vital partner in developing H.R. 1, the For the People Act – a once-in-a-generation opportunity to clean up Washington and return to government of, by and for the people. Her leadership on reform issues – especially when it comes to increasing the transparency of Presidential Inaugural fundraising and cracking down on foreign influence peddling – is a key reason why we’ve been able to present the American people with such a robust and sweeping set of reforms to end the dominance of big money in politics, ensure clean and fair elections and make sure that public servants put the public’s interests ahead of special interests.”
When Rep. Scanlon introduced this bill in the 115th Congress in December 2018, Public Citizen’s Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Lisa Gilbert, expressed her organization’s support for this bill:
“The Trump Inaugural committee is now under criminal investigation for millions of dollars in mysterious and unexplained expenditures as well as possibly illegal donations from foreign sources. The absence of adequate regulation and disclosure of the financing of inaugural committees makes very clear the necessity for Congresswoman Scanlon’s Inaugural Fund Integrity Act.”
Norman Eisen, who served as Chief Ethics Counsel for President Barack Obama, notes that ethics problems around inaugurations aren’t unique to the Trump administration:
“[T]his is not just a Trump problem, this is the problem of big money in politics. Both parties raise big money around the Inauguration― and around everything else as well. The system has run amok.”
Of Note: Inaugural committees are created by presidents-elect to run the inaugural ceremony and the parties and other activities connected to the inauguration. The FEC has little oversight over inaugural committees — at present, inaugural committees are only required to report all donations over $200 no later than 90 days after the inauguration.
President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, which raised a record-shattering $107 million (for comparison, President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration raised $53.2 million), has been at the center of controversy and is under investigation by Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York due to its connections to foreign governments and straw donors. In February 2019, news outlets reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York was looking into a range of potential crimes committed by the inaugural committee, including conspiracy against the United States, false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, inaugural committee disclosure violations, and violations of laws prohibiting contributions by foreign nations and straw donors.
OpenSecrets reports that 91 percent of the Trump inaugural committee’s cash came from only 250 people or organizations, including 47 of which gave in excess of $1 million. According to OpenSecrets, over half of the companies that donated to the Trump inaugural fund later benefited from the Trump administration in some way, including by receiving government contracts or favorable treatment from the administration.
Trump’s inaugural committee has denied any wrongdoing, writing in a statement that it was “in full compliance with all applicable laws”:
“The (committee) is not aware of any pending investigations and has not been contacted by any prosecutors. We simply have no evidence the investigation exists. The (committee's) finances were fully audited internally and independently and are fully accounted. Moreover, the inauguration's accounting was provided both to the Federal Election Commission and the IRS in compliance with all laws and regulations. These were funds raised from private individuals and were then spent in accordance with the law and the expectations of the donors. The names of donors were provided to the FEC and have been public for nearly two years and those donors were vetted in accordance with the law and no improprieties have been found regarding the vetting of those donors."
- Sponsoring Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) Press Release (116th Congress)
- Sponsoring Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) Press Release (115th Congress)
- OpenSecrets (Context)
- CNN (Context)
- Vox (Context)
- Countable (Related Bill)
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / carterdayne)