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UA says 'deed of gift' for Bumpers' papers allows access cutoffs

by Bill Bowden | March 20, 2015 at 2:45 a.m. | Updated March 19, 2015 at 11:37 p.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The family of former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers can restrict access to his papers in the University of Arkansas library's special collections department, according to a 15-year-old agreement between the family and the university.

According to the "deed of gift," the university can restrict access to papers that would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy or libel a living person. The university also can restrict Bumpers materials that relate to investigations or confidential business affairs, according to the document.

Beyond that, the donor "may choose to restrict ... any other records" in the collection, according to the deed.

UA released part of the agreement Thursday after a request under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

On Wednesday, the Bumpers family had a diary attributed to the former senator "temporarily pulled" from the UA library after discovering that it contained comments critical of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The move came after the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Mother Jones magazine published excerpts from the diary.

In 1982 diary entries, Bumpers purportedly said the Clintons were obsessed with political ambition and that Bill Clinton had problems "when character is required to make the right decision."

"I doubt that I've ever known anybody as manicly [sic] ambitious for political office, but who simply doesn't have the judgment or character to deal with it once he gets it," the diary says about Bill Clinton in an entry on June 11, 1982.

Brent Bumpers of Little Rock, son of the former senator, said he was "shocked" by the diary. He has questioned its origin and authenticity, saying nobody in the family had ever heard anything about Dale Bumpers keeping a dairy.

Brent Bumpers said his father, who is 89 years old, doesn't remember keeping a diary. He said Dale Bumpers always admired the Clintons and wouldn't have written the things the diary contains.

Brent Bumpers said he wants to review the diary, but he won't have the opportunity for several days.

Although Dale Bumpers hasn't personally requested that the diary be pulled, Laura Jacobs, UA associate vice chancellor for university relations, said Brent Bumpers is speaking and acting on behalf of his father regarding the Dale Bumpers Papers.

The collection includes 1,142 boxes of materials, which contain everything from "presidential cigars" to size-12 saddle oxfords emblazoned with running Razorbacks. The papers were donated to the university in 2000 and have been open to the public since March 2014.

According to the deed, restrictions on material in the collection will be up for review in a couple of years.

"The agreement provides a general date for restrictions in place until 2017, but other materials can have other release dates," said Jacobs.

Jacobs said the Bumpers family retains all copyrights on the material during the former senator's lifetime.

Brent Bumpers said Thursday that he has not studied a section of the gift agreement emailed to him by a reporter.

"But at quick glance it would seem clear to me that Paragraph 4 confirms that both the university and Dad recognized the possibility that somewhere among hundreds of boxes of materials there might be some papers that should not be released," Brent Bumpers said via email. "While I still have not viewed these items, it would seem that they might very well fall into that category because they are marked 'personal,' as I understand the situation."

The diary appears to have been dictated from Bumpers to a secretary in his Washington, D.C., office, based on references in the diary to "tapes" and the secretary's first name.

The diary consists of typewritten pages in several folders. In the online index, it is labeled "Dale Bumpers Diaries" and includes entries from 1973, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1992 and 1993.

In a Sept. 16, 1982, entry, the diary says Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton were "the most manic obsessive people I have ever known in my life, and perhaps even the most insensitive to everybody else's feelings."

"Everything centers around them and their ambitions," the entry continued. "It is precisely the reason Bill got beat [when he ran for re-election as governor] in 1980. People felt, and correctly, that they were being manipulated."

The comments were apparently dictated the same day that Bumpers and former U.S. Sen. David Pryor, both Democrats from Arkansas, hosted a campaign luncheon for Bill Clinton at the Hilton hotel in Little Rock. Pryor introduced Clinton to the standing-room-only crowd.

"Clinton ought to be most grateful to both of us, but he never is," the diary says, apparently referring to Bumpers and Pryor. "You can never do quite enough for him and Hillary. I know they blame David and me both at least partially for their defeat in 1980."

Bill Clinton lost the 1980 governor's race to Republican Frank White, who held the office for two years before Clinton was elected again in 1982.

Clinton was governor of Arkansas from 1983-92, when he was elected president. Clinton served two presidential terms.

Now, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is considering a run for the White House.

A diary entry on June 11, 1982, refers to Bill Clinton as a "tragic figure" but says he was popular with Arkansas voters.

"They like him, but they know he'll do anything to get the office," the entry says. "He's bright, his heart's in the right place, he's energetic, he really wants to make a difference, and he cares deeply about his state. He just simply cannot sort it all out when character is required to make the right decision."

Media spokesmen at the Clinton Foundation in New York City didn't return emails seeking comment.

Jacobs said part of the deed was withheld from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act because disclosing it might give other universities a competitive advantage.

"It could potentially have a chilling effect on our ability to acquire new collections," she said.

Jacobs elaborated in an email later Thursday: "After considering the position of the family and the potential advantage that providing information contained in the gift agreement would give other university libraries in competition for similar special collection agreements, the university has redacted some of the information from the two-page gift agreement. The university believes that disclosing the gift agreement in full would potentially harm the library's current and future efforts and give an advantage to other libraries seeking similar special collections agreements."

Jacobs cited Arkansas Code Annotated 25-19-105(9)(A), which provides an exemption from the state Freedom of Information Act for "files that if disclosed would give advantage to competitors or bidders."

John E. Tull III of Little Rock, general counsel for the Arkansas Press Association, said the section Jacobs cited refers to business competition.

"The Bumpers family is not a business entity," Tull said via email. "I am unaware of any [legal] authority supporting the position that the Bumpers family is a business entity contemplated by the cited exemption. Further, I would like to ask the university to identify any instance where such an agreement has been used by a 'competitor' to acquire similar documents."

Bumpers is known as one of Bill Clinton's most eloquent defenders. He gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor during Clinton's impeachment trial on Jan. 21, 1999.

Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, then was acquitted in the Senate on Feb. 12, 1999, three weeks after Bumpers' speech.

Bumpers twice considered running for president himself, in 1984 and 1988. During his career, Bumpers defeated some of the giants in Arkansas politics: Democrat Orval Faubus and Republican Winthrop Rockefeller for governor in 1970, and Democratic Sen. J. William Fulbright for the Senate in 1974.

The Fayetteville archive doesn't include Bumpers' gubernatorial papers, which are held at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Center for Arkansas History and Culture.

Metro on 03/20/2015

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