The Obama administration kept a visitor log for the White House, a practice that ended when President Donald Trump took office. In an effort to put that back into place, Democrats recently introduced the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act. Just in case you got lost in that wordy title, it can be reduced to the MAR-A-LAGO Act — because who says lawmaking can't be fun? So what is the Mar-a-Lago Act? It would force Trump to be more accountable to his constituents.
The bill would require Trump to not only maintain and release visitor logs from the White House, but other places that he frequently conducts business, including Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate that he refers to as the Southern White House or the Winter White House. Trump has spent five weekends at Mar-a-Lago since he was inaugurated.
"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," Sen. Tom Udall, one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill, said in a statement. "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 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."
In his statement, Udall noted that fees at Mar-a-Lago "where people are getting uncommon access to the president and his top advisers" have doubled. The initiation fees rose from $100,000 to $150,000 in June of last year, when Trump's chances of presidential victory were rapidly solidifying. As of Jan. 1, the fees rose to $200,000.
"He basically moved the office of the presidency," Richard Painter, the former ethics czar for the George W. Bush administration, told NBC News. "Under those circumstances, in which taxpayers are paying for you to do government work and for your Secret Service protection, they're entitled to know what private parties are moving in and out of there."
Trump has already hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and members of his cabinet at Mar-a-Lago, and next month he plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The lawmakers who introduced the bill wrote to the president this month demanding the release of the visitor logs, according to NBC. The outlet also notes that Udall asked to know who was getting access to the president through Mar-a-Lago's exorbitant fees. Both queries have gone unanswered by the White House.