U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. has been on a crusade since 1999 to force presidential libraries to make public their lists of private donors, reports Michael Collins, but this year he thinks his legislation is actually likely to become law.
Indications the Knoxville Republican’s luck may be about to change:
-The foundation that has been planning President Barack Obama’s library, museum and presidential center is set to announce Tuesday that the complex will be built on the South Side of Chicago, the city the 44th president calls home. Construction is expected to cost $380 million and will be financed by private donations.
-Recent reports the Clinton Foundation accepted foreign donations while Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary of state — and questions about whether the Clintons lived up to their promise to avoid conflicts of interest between the foundation and her government post — have underscored what government watchdog groups say is the need for public disclosure of such donors.
-Duncan’s legislation requiring the disclosure of donations to presidential libraries has passed the U.S. House three times — in 2002, 2007 and 2009 — only to die in the Senate. But this year, identical legislation in the Senate has already won the approval of a key committee and is heading to the Senate floor for a possible vote.
…“I’m hopeful and optimistic that we can pass it and really complete it this time around,” Duncan said. “It’s a good-government bill. It’s something that should have been done a long time ago, and it has really been subject to abuse and will continue to be subject to abuse if we don’t do something about it.”
If the bill finally becomes law, fundraising organizations for presidential libraries will be required to submit quarterly reports to the National Archives detailing all donations of $200 or more and could face criminal penalties for falsified information. The National Archives would be required to make the reports public via a searchable database.
Duncan introduced the legislation in 1999 after learning an organization raising money for President Bill Clinton’s library had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Middle Eastern countries while Clinton was still in office.