Reforming the Presidential Library Donation Disclosure Process

From the web page of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

This hearing will examine the need for public disclosure of donations made to private foundations established to fund presidential libraries and related facilities. The committee will consider possible legislative proposals to require such disclosure.

Updated: A video of the hearing is also now available at the web page.

The following witnesses testified:

Mr. Waxman noted in his statement:

The George H.W. Bush library was reported to cost more than $80 million to build. The Clinton library and museum cost about $165 million to build. News reports have indicated that he fundraising goal for President Bush’s library is $500 million – half a billion dollars – before this institution is completed.

The vast scale of these secret fundraising efforts creates opportunities for abuse. Donors who do not need to be identified can give unlimited amounts of money to support these libraries while the President remains in office. According to some accounts, some mega-donors being courted to fund the Bush library are expected to contribute $10 to $20 million each. And they may make these contributions while there are nearly two years left in President Bush’s term.

Later this week, Rep. Duncan and I will be introducing legislation to reform this system. This legislation would require that presidential libraries disclose the identity of their donors to Congress and the National Archives during their period of most intense fundraising, which is hile the President is in office and in the several years after the end of his term. I expect the Committee to consider this legislation next week.

This legislation is one part of a larger effort by this Committee to restore honesty and accountability in the federal government. In fact, the Committee will soon be considering two additional open government bills: one to improve access to presidential records and one to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act.

As we will learn at today’s hearing and when we mark up the open government legislation, these bills are bipartisan initiatives with broad public support.

Just this morning, the Dallas Morning News reported that President Bush donated over $100,000 to his own library fund, and added:

Other donations that might have come in remain secret. There is no law requiring presidential libraries to disclose funding sources, though some gifts do come to light because the donors themselves – in this case, the Governor Bush Committee – are subject to state or federal disclosure laws.

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