Committee Approves Bipartisan Bills to Curb Improper Payments, Increase Accountability and Transparency in Presidential Library Donations

WASHINGTON – Today the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed two bipartisan bills that would help curb improper payments across the federal government and increase accountability and transparency in president library donations. Both bills, the Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015 (S.614) and the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2015 (S.558), were introduced by Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) last week.

The Committee approved The Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015 (S.614), which would improve existing programs, requirements, and procedures established to identify and prevent improper payments. The Committee also approved The Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2015 (S.558), which would require organizations that raise funds for presidential libraries to disclose information to the National Archives about donors making contributions over $200. Committee members Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) are cosponsors of the measure. Both bills were approved by voice vote.

“These two bipartisan bills take common-sense steps to help the federal government increase transparency and accountability, and deliver better results to Americans,” Ranking Member Carper said. “The Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015 would help curb agency waste and fraud by strengthening the ability of federal agencies to detect and prevent improper payments, which rose to $125 billion dollars last year after dropping for the previous three years. The Presidential Library Donations Act would provide transparency into the private donations presidents rely on to build their libraries and bring sunlight to the presidential library fundraising process, helping to eliminate even the appearance of impropriety. I’d like to thank my Committee colleagues for approving these measures and I look forward to continuing to work alongside Chairman Johnson on more common-sense, bipartisan initiatives in the future.”

“Federal agencies spending taxpayer money improperly, whether due to carelessness or fraud, is a significant and growing problem,” Chairman Johnson said. “The Government Accountability Office just testified that more than 27% of benefits to the poor through the Earned Income Tax Credit program were paid improperly last year. That’s $17.7 billion paid improperly in one year in a single program. American taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for such high levels of improper payments.”

“As for disclosure of donations to presidential libraries, then-Sen. Barack Obama was correct in 2007 when he faulted large donations to the Clinton Presidential Library, some from foreign royalty, that remained anonymous for years,” Chairman Johnson continued. “Such donations should be disclosed to avoid even the appearance of conflict or impropriety. This bill is a step toward such openness. I’m happy to sponsor it.”

The Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015 builds upon two recently enacted improper payment laws championed by Senator Carper, which were also designed to strengthen the federal requirements and procedures to identify and prevent improper payments. In 2010, Senator Carper saw enactment of the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA), which established new, federal-wide policies and procedures to save taxpayers money by reducing improper payments. In 2013, Congress enacted and the president signed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act, which further strengthened the rules requiring federal agencies to curb improper payments and mandated the establishment of a government-wide “do not pay” program.

The Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2015 brings transparency to the presidential library fundraising process by requiring fundraising organizations to disclose donor names and contribution amounts for donations received prior to the transfer of a library to the custody of the Archives. The legislation also requires the Archives to disclose the donations on its website in a searchable, sortable, and downloadable format. Under current law, there are no restrictions on fundraising for the libraries, funds can be raised while the President is still in office, and the source of the donations is not required to be disclosed. Over the years, this has led to bipartisan concerns of about potential impropriety, where library donations may be being used as a way for donors to secure special access or political favors.