Washington Post on Records, Donations

March 13, 2007

Today’s Washington Post runs editorials in favor of the repeal of Executive Order 13233 and in favor of disclosing donations to Presidential libraries.  (You have to register to read the pieces, but access appears open).

With the Order, writes the Post, “Mr. Bush not only compelled presidents to honor the requests of their predecessors but also took the unprecedented step of extending to their relatives and to the vice president the right to invoke executive privilege. Archivists would have to go to court to try to get the documents they were seeking. The emphasis is on “try,” because even if archivists won in court, the former and current president could delay the release of documents indefinitely.”

In terms of donations, the paper condemns the ethics of collecting substantial amounts of money without disclosure from those who may be seeking government contracts, favorable legislation, or pardons.  “Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan before him,” the piece mentions, “amassed millions in pledges this way — including, as it turned out in Mr. Clinton’s case, from donors who then lobbied for, and secured, presidential pardons.”

This piece also offers a quick gloss on the odd nature of Presidential libraries, as pithy as any I’ve seen:

Presidential libraries are not ordinary charities, and the ordinary concerns about preserving the privacy of charitable contributions do not apply to them. They are hybrid institutions, built and endowed with private funds but ultimately public property run by the National Archives.