The Murky Fundraising of Presidential Libraries

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TNR has a good article about the lack of oversight and transparency in presidential library fundraising, and the potential for abuse it creates. We’ve seen the problem before:

In 1993, George H.W. Bush pardoned Edwin L. Cox, Jr., who had pled guilty five years earlier to bank fraud. Eleven months later, Cox’s father pledged support for the Bush library and is now listed as a donor in the “$100,000 to $250,000” range. Likewise, in the late ’90s, Denise Rich reportedly pledged $450,000 to Clinton’s library at the same time her ex-husband, Marc Rich, was seeking a pardon for racketeering and tax- evasion charges.

Two things make the problem relevant again today. First, Bush is trying to raise a whopping $500 million for this presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, which means tons and tons of fundraising now, while Bush is still in office and capable of being swayed on policy decisions by particularly large donations. (By the way, Methodist ministers are appalled at the idea of GWB’s library being at SMU.)

Second, Hillary Clinton is running for president while her husband’s library is accepting donations. There is a strong system of oversight for presidential campaign fundraising (just see opensecrets.org), but there is nothing you can do if you want to see who is donating to Bill Clinton’s library. Surely it is time for the FEC to step in.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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