Washington Post on Records, Donations

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. 

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4 Responses to Washington Post on Records, Donations

  1. These are good editorials, but at the end of the second one it says:

    “It is imperative, this time around, that the measure be passed and signed into law — by the first president whose fundraising it would bring into the sunlight.”

    The idea that President Bush is going to sign this into law is, I think, naive. I think both of these measures, if they are to become law, will need to be passed over a veto by Bush.

  2. Maarja Krusten says:

    Thanks for posting this, Dr. Johnson.

    Let me point out that The Washington Post’s op ed,”Records in the Open,” errs when it states that

    “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.”

    Archivists already hold the records in question, they have no need to
    seek them. The Bush executive order applies to records that federal
    archivists have screened for national security, privacy, and other FOIA
    exemptions (save one) and deemed releasable to the public. Moreover,
    as executive branch employees, archivists are obligated to accept and
    honor a claim of executive privilege. It is historians and other
    researchers outside the National Archives, not the federal archivists,
    who have the option of going to court. See the explanation by a legal expert at
    http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=2390

    As I’ve mentioned previously, the National Archives does not speak for itself in court. It is lawyers working in the Department of Justice who file pleadings and otherwise represent the government in court in all matters involving NARA.

    As always, I appreciate your willingness to let me post here, thanks again.

    Maarja

    Submitted at 8:56 pm Eastern time

  3. Maarja Krusten says:

    See
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070314/ap_on_go_co/congress_sunshine_2
    which suggests that the President’s advisors plan to advise him to veto the Presidential Records Act amendment should it reach his desk.

    Submitted at 7:40 am Eastern time from home

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