March 24, 2017

Whitehouse, Reed Introduce MAR-A-LAGO Act to Require Disclosure of Visitor Logs at White House, Trump Properties

Bill ensures transparency by mandating the release of visitor lists to locations where Trump regularly conducts official business

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) joined U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) to introduce the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act, a bill that requires the publication of visitor logs to the White House or any other location where President Trump regularly conducts official business, including various Trump Organization properties frequented by the president.

“The American people need to know who has access to the White House if we’re going to ‘drain the swamp’.  So far, all we’ve seen from the President is murk,” said Senator Whitehouse. “His Administration has stonewalled congressional requests for information about his advisors and appointees’ conflicts of interest.  Dark money groups are spending millions on campaigns to confirm his controversial nominees for the Cabinet and Supreme Court.  He joins top Administration officials to mingle with the ultra-rich at his ‘Winter White House’ and won’t say who paid $200,000 for the privilege.  Maintaining sensible transparency policies would help dispel concerns that the wealthy and the well-connected have unfair access to the Trump White House.  If he won’t adopt that policy himself, Congress should require it.”

“White House visitor logs help provide the American people with an important look at who is meeting with the President and his staff and a greater understanding of White House business.  The Trump Administration has taken a step back in terms of transparency and this bill would reinstitute the practice of releasing visitor logs,” said Senator Reed.  “Access to the President, in any setting, presents a serious array of national security issues.  There should be transparent process for Americans to find out, when appropriate, who has access to the President.”

The MAR-A-LAGO Act comes in response to the Trump administration’s refusal to extend the pro-transparency policy established by former President Barack Obama to release visitor logs at the White House 90 to 120 days after they were created. The lawmakers’ bill requires the publication of these visitor logs to ensure that the American people have information about who has access to and may be influencing the Trump administration. In addition, due to President Trump’s frequent use of his private business properties for official business, the MAR-A-LAGO Act mandates the disclosure of visitor lists at locations like the Trump Organization’s Mar-A-Lago Club – sometimes billed as the “Winter White House” by Trump officials  – Trump Tower in New York City, and the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. President Trump himself recently dubbed Mar-a-Lago the “Southern White House.”

“The Obama administration’s voluntary online disclosure of the White House visitor logs provided the American public with a meaningful window into the influence and operations of the White House, despite its flaws.” said John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. “If the Trump administration isn’t going to continue a practice that was widely lauded by leaders across the political spectrum, Congress should mandate disclosure to guarantee public access to the visitor log records.  As long as President Trump continues to conduct public business in his private business, the same standards of disclosure should apply to Mar-a-Lago as the White House. President Trump has brought unprecedented conflicts of interest to the Presidency.  The public deserves more sunshine on his opaque estate in the Sunshine State.”

President Trump has taken the unusual and potentially dangerous step of conducting official business in the plain view of guests at his high-priced Mar-A-Lago club.  Meanwhile, initiation fees at Mar-A-Lago have recently doubled to $200,000, and news reports show that members and guests at the club are able to gain frequent access to the president and his advisers.  The MAR-A-LAGO Act requires the disclosure of visitors to the club and to other Trump Organization properties to make certain there is transparency about who is getting unprecedented access to President Trump at these locations.  Thus far, in addition to ending the previous administration’s policy of publishing White House visitor logs, the administration and the Trump Organization have refused to reveal the lists of members and guests at Mar-A-Lago and other Trump Organization properties frequently visited by the president and top administration officials. 

The lawmakers have repeatedly called on the Trump administration to provide greater transparency and information to the American people about the unprecedented, secretive, and ethically questionable actions President Trump has taken since assuming office.  Earlier this month, Udall, Whitehouse, Carper and other Democratic senators wrote to the president demanding that he continue the Obama-era policy of publishing White House visitor logs, as well as take the additional step of disclosing visitors to properties where President Trump frequently conducts official business.  In February, after the Trump Organization doubled its membership fees at Mar-A-Lago on the eve of President Trump’s first official visit to the club, Udall and Whitehouse wrote a letter to President Trump demanding information about who is buying access to what President Trump calls the “Winter White House.”  The White House has refused to respond to the lawmakers’ various inquiries and calls for increased transparency. 


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