U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich reintroduced the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act, a bicameral 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 that he frequents.
“No one should have greater access to or influence over the president or the administration just because they are wealthy, well-connected, or a regular at one of the president’s private clubs,” said Udall. “The administration’s refusal to disclose White House visitor logs – and the president’s insistence on conducting official business out of his private business properties – have created an environment where people seeking to influence the administration can access officials at the highest levels of government without public scrutiny. Recent reporting by Mother Jones, ProPublica, and others underscores why the American people have every right to be concerned about who has undue influence in the Trump White House. Without transparency about who is gaining access to the president and White House officials, the American people have no way to know who has leverage over this administration and who is informing important policy decisions that impact their daily lives. This bill would reinstate the minimum disclosure standards that were in place from 2009 to 2017 for this administration and all that come after it.”
“President Trump and his administration have shown a disturbing level of corruption by using the president’s own private business properties to conduct official government business,” said Heinrich. “The American people deserve transparency and have a right to know who is trying to influence this administration and our democracy.”
In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). In the House, it is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.).
First introduced in the 115th Congress, 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. This bill requires the publication of these visitor logs 90 days after their creation to ensure that the American people have information about who has access to, and may be influencing, the Trump administration and all future administrations. It would maintain similar exceptions for national security as the prior Obama administration policy.
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 records at locations where the president “regularly conducts official business,” such as the Trump Organization’s Mar-A-Lago Club – sometimes billed as the “Winter White House” by Trump officials – and the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. President Trump himself has dubbed Mar-a-Lago the “Southern White House.”
This past weekend, Mother Jones reported that Li Yang, Trump donor and founder of Florida spas and massage parlors that have been linked to prostitution, sold access to the president at Mar-a-Lago.
Yang reportedly sold access to Chinese executives as recent as this past New Year’s Eve, and Mother Jones has also reported that she has served as an official in two U.S.-based organizations with links to the Chinese Communist Party.
“The MAR-A-LAGO Act should never have been necessary to even consider, but the President's wanton disregard for basic ethics requires a more assertive approach,” said John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. “If President Trump is going to treat his private businesses as extensions of the government, then basic public protections should apply to them as well.”
President Trump has also 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 and has personally accepted policy proposals from members. 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 has unprecedented access to President Trump at these locations.
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.