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  • Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2016

    by Representative John J. Duncan Jr.

    Posted on 2016-01-11

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    DUNCAN of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman Chaffetz for his support and for yielding me this time.

    This is a bill that has passed in three separate Congresses with overwhelming bipartisan support and very, very little opposition. In fact, in this Congress, it is cosponsored by Ranking Member Elijah Cummings. In past Congresses, it has been cosponsored by Ranking Member Edolphus Towns; and in one Congress, Chairman Waxman became the primary sponsor. So it is a very bipartisan bill.

    It is a very simple bill, one that I think can be supported by anyone who is opposed to secrecy in government and believes in an open, transparent system. The Presidential Library Donation Reform Act simply requires that donations to a President's library greater than $200 be disclosed to the public and posted online.

    It is very surprising to people that there are no laws governing these donations at this time. In fact, any person, corporation, or foreign government can donate any amount, unreported, while a President is still in office.

    I first introduced this bill in the 106th Congress after reading a front-page story in The Washington Times reporting that foreign governments from the Middle East were making very large donations to the proposed library for President Clinton. I was concerned about the influence of donations being made by foreign governments. However, I hasten to say this is not directed toward former President Clinton or anyone else. This bill has been introduced and passed, and I have sponsored this bill under both Republican and Democratic Presidents.

    I did read at one point that after I introduced this bill that President Clinton's library had received a $450,000 contribution from the ex-wife of Marc Rich, who had fled the country to evade $40 million in taxes. So these types of things have certainly raised concern.

    In 2013, the Sunlight Foundation's policy director endorsed my bill during a hearing on Federal Government transparency in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, saying: ``It would provide valuable information on special interests whose donations put them in close proximity with Presidents.'' {time} 1715 Presidential libraries were once modest structures, but they have grown rapidly over the years into megamuseums devoted to a President's life and legacy. President George W. Bush's library topped $500 million in costs. That is seven times the cost of his father's library. A recent report in The New York Times noted that President Obama's library could end up costing $1 billion.

    As costs soar, clearly there is potential for abuse, no matter who is President. This is, as I said, not a partisan issue. It is not directed at any President. It is simply a good government bill that I think almost everyone can support, and certainly they have in the past.

    I urge support for this legislation.

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