Corruption Amidst the Stacks


The fundraising for presidential libraries continues to be a blind spot when it comes to disclosure and an open and transparent government. Unlike contributions to an electoral campaign, gifts to the libraries are unlimited and undisclosed, and they can take money from corporations and foreign governments. This is worth repeating: Presidential libraries have no restrictions on the size of financial contributions they can receive, and they are not required to report who their contributors are. Plus, they can receive gifts from corporations and foreign governments! It is illegal for political campaigns to receive contributions from corporations and foreign governments. And another egregious aspect of presidential library fundraising that all of this unlimited, undisclosed fundraising involving corporations and foreign governments is going on while the nation’s chief executive is still in office…The most powerful man or woman in the world. As Sheila Krumholz, director of the Center for Responsive Politics and friend, said in testimony to Congress in February 2007, "The potential (for corruption with the libraries) may be far greater than in the campaign finance system."

On Thursday of last week, President Bush held a press conference where he discussed his planned $200-million-plus library in Dallas on the campus of Southern Methodist University. He was asked about whether he would accept donations from foreign sources and would he disclose the source of all funds. Bush said he would probably accept foreign donations and would consider keeping the donors’ names confidential if they do not want to be identified, according to The New York Times. As Think Progress reports, George H. W. Bush (#41) accepted large donations from foreign governmental figures, including a donation that is believed to be in excess of $1 million from the United Arab Emirates.

In her congressional testimony, Sheila voiced concern that since the Bush presidency was far from over donors will contribute to the library in order to gain access and favors. A presidential pardon for a six-figure contributor to (former President Bill) Clinton’s library and political campaigns left the indelible impression with many that a presidential pardon was purchased, Krumholz said.

The Center for Responsive Politics and others have called on Congress to pass legislation requiring the public disclosure of contributions to presidential library projects in order to prevent the obvious invitation for corruption. The Center has endorsed a proposal to require the online disclosure of contributions exceeding $200 a quarter, which is very much like the way electoral campaigns have to report their activity. Other disclosure proposals exist, such as the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2007 (H.R. 1254), which requires the disclosure of contributors to the libraries.

Come on folks, this is a no brainer.