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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Congress Works on Transparency Issues...

Future donations to presidential libraries would have to be publicly disclosed, the House decided Wednesday.

The library vote and a separate one making it more difficult for former presidents to prevent documents from entering the public domain kicked off a new session of Congress. Majority Democrats have joined with President-elect Barack Obama in promising to make government operations more transparent. Both bills now go to the Senate.

The library measure would require that groups raising funds for presidential libraries make disclosures four times a year of all donations of $200 or more.

The House has made several attempts this decade to move the legislation. Republicans promoted it at the end of the Clinton administration after it was revealed that Clinton's library foundation received a large contribution from the ex-wife of financier Marc Rich. Rich fled the country after being convicted of evading $40 million in taxes and then received a presidential pardon on the last day Clinton was in office.

The documents bill would overturn an executive order issued by Bush in November 2001. It gave presidents and former presidents the ability to delay public release of records for years. The order also states that only presidents and former presidents, not former vice presidents or the descendants of presidents, can assert privilege over records.

The vote on the documents bill, H.R. 35, was 359-58. The vote on the libraries bill, H.R. 36, was 388-31.

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