- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The House voted yesterday to require presidential libraries to make quarterly disclosures of anyone who gives at least $200 toward building a presidential library. The bipartisan vote was 390-34.

Backers of presidential libraries now will have to play by some of the rules of political campaigns. Under the old rules, donors could give as much as they wanted and no disclosure was required. Donors still can make contributions of any size.

Former President Bill Clinton raised $165 million for his library while he was still in office, much of it from anonymous donors, raising speculation among Republicans about the size of some contributions and a flurry of pardons in the last hours of his presidency.

President Bush has raised significant sums of anonymous cash for the library he expects to build at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, angering many on the left and among conspiracy theorists who cite the large donations his father’s presidential library received from contributors in Arab countries.

“What we mean here is that in making sure that in a period of time that the president of the United States is raising money for [his] library, that in no time will their actions or public actions be influenced by those who are willing to support [the] library,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Democrat, who served in the Clinton administration.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, was one of several approved by the House yesterday to make government information more accessible to the public.

The House passed a bill by a vote of 308-117 calling on government agencies to be more responsive to Freedom of Information Act requests for public documents, a measure to reverse a 2001 Bush decision making it easier for presidents to keep their records from public scrutiny and was considering legislation to better protect government whistleblowers.

The White House, citing the president’s constitutional prerogatives, warned that the presidential records bill would be vetoed if it reached his desk. The White House further threatened to veto a whistleblower law.

The 2001 law was enacted after the Watergate scandal “to underscore the fact that presidential records belong to the American people, not to the presidents,” Mr. Waxman said. The presidential directive “undermines the entire purpose” of the act.

The presidential library legislation requires that the name of each contribution of more than $200 be listed by the name of the contributor, whether that donor is an individual or a corporation. If the donor is an individual, his occupation must be listed as well. The National Archives would be required to make that information available to the public through a free online database. The Senate version of the bill requires full disclose of donations above $200, but only if from registered lobbyists.

A spokesman for the Clinton library said the $165 million in donations came from more than 100,000 individual donors and corporations. One of the Little Rock library’s most generous donors was Denise Rich, ex-wife of fugitive financier Marc Rich, whom Mr. Clinton pardoned. Mrs. Rich gave roughly $450,000 to the Clinton library.

Mr. Bush’s father, President George Bush, raised large sums for his library from wealthy donors in Kuwait and Oman, said library spokeswoman Jessica McCann. The Washington Times Foundation, which is separate and independent from the newspaper, gave more than $1 million to the library, on the campus of Texas A&M; University at College Station.

In 2002, the Republican-led House voted to require disclosure of donations to presidential libraries. However, the legislation stalled in the Senate.

• Sean Lengell contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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