PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — Three former Members of Congress have gifted all of their documents to the Dirksen Congressional Center.
WMBD’s Matt Sheehan was given an exclusive look at the boxes received at the Center.
“All three have agreed to gift their congressional papers collections to the Dirksen Center,” said Tiffany White, the Executive Director of the Dirksen Congressional Center.
In a time where classified documents are popping up left and right in former Presidents and Vice Presidents homes, documents that aren’t classified are making their way to central Illinois.
“Speeches, press releases, notes about ideas for legislation, constituent correspondence, staff memos… perhaps correspondence between the member and some of their colleagues,” White said.
White gave WMBD a behind-the-scenes look at the rows of documents the Center currently has, and broke down how receiving documents has become much more modernized.
White said these collections are mostly born-digital documents, produced electronically.
“Rather than receiving truckload of box, we are receiving hard drives,” she said.
The Center just started planning how they’re going to dive through the digital stuff.
“So let’s say somehow in part of the hard drive, or in a box, a classified document shows up. Like we’re seeing with Biden, Trump, Pence. Now you all have to go into action. What does that action mode look like? What would you have to do if you found documents like that?” Sheehan asked.
“There are several guardrails to prevent something like that happening. In the deed of gift, it is articulated that we should not be receiving those documents. Hopefully, each member has consulted with House Attorneys who have also guided them through the process of making sure any documentation like that in their collection before they left Congress was returned to its right and safe owner,” White answered. “In the event that something like that would pop up in a collection that came to us, we have our own procedures in place to return that document. We comply with all federal rules and regulations concerning those documents. We would immediately identify the appropriate channels to return that document.”
The documents received by the Center are from three former Illinois Members of Congress.
Rodney Davis (R-Illinois), Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois), and Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois). Davis was formerly the Congressman for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, Kinzinger represented the 16th District, and Bustos was the 17th District’s Congresswoman.
White said this is a historic time, being the first time the Center has ever received Congressional documents outside of the 18th Congressional District.
While having Cheri Bustos’ documents was also a first, being the first Democrat and female Member of Congress to gift their belongings. Tiffany hopes this is a good sign of things to come.
“I’d like the Dirksen Center become the #1 preferred repository for all members of the Illinois delegation regardless of their location and political party they represent,” White said.