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 - Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) introduced 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 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."
"It's simple: the American people have a right to know who has access to the president and who has leverage over this administration," said Udall. "Many Americans are rightly worried about whether the wealthy and well-connected are being given special treatment and undue influence in the Trump White House. President Trump has assembled a cabinet filled with millionaires and billionaires, he's pursuing an agenda of massive tax cuts for the rich, and the initiation fees at Mar-A-Lago - where people are getting uncommon access to the president and his top advisers - have just doubled to $200,000. By refusing to release the White House visitor logs, President Trump is only validating the rampant concerns about who may be pulling the levers in his administration. The president should end his administration's disturbing pattern of stonewalling information and immediately reinstate the previous administration's policy of publishing White House visitor logs. And given President Trump's unprecedented decision to regularly conduct official business at his private business properties, the Trump administration has an obligation to make public the visitor lists at places like Mar-A-Lago and Trump Tower."
"Effective government is dependent on public trust, but unfortunately, the Trump Administration is missing that key ingredient," said Quigley, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Transparency Caucus. "With each passing day, the American people's confidence in our president decreases, and it is no surprise given the Administration's efforts to roll back productive policies that increase openness and improve transparency. Reestablishing the practice of publishing visitor logs is a critical first step in ensuing our President, and those he does business with, are working in the interest of hardworking Americans everywhere instead of the wealthy few. From the White House to Mar-a-Largo to Trump Tower, we deserve to know who has the president's ear and who is wielding their influence in our democracy."
"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 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."
"The business of the President of the United States is the business of the people of the United States," said Carper. "Americans have long had the right to know who has access and influence in the White House, and this tradition of sunlight on inner workings of the executive branch must continue. As President Trump continues to conduct official business from various Trump properties, information about each of these meetings must be made as transparent as it would be at the White House in the nation's capital."
"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," said Reed.
"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 have refused to respond to the lawmakers' various inquiries and calls for increased transparency.
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