A bill was recently introduced in the House of Representatives which seeks to prohibit the payment of surcharges from commemorative coin programs to private organizations or entities. Although the text of the bill is not yet available, it is likely to contain provisions similar to a bill introduced in the 112th Congress that failed to become law.
United States Mint commemorative coin programs are authorized through Acts of Congress. The authorizing legislation typically sets forth the subject of commemoration, the specific coins to be produced, the period of availability, and surcharge amounts which will be added to the price of each coin. The total surcharges raised from the program are distributed to one or more specified beneficiary organizations upon the satisfaction of certain requirements. Since 1982, more than $400 million in surcharges have been raised through commemorative coin programs.
The bill H.R. 1218 was introduced by Rep. Justin Amash on March 15, 2013 and currently has three cosponsors. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
In the last Congress, Amash had introduced a similar bill and also sent a “Dear Colleague” letter explaining that commemorative coin bills could be used as a way to “funnel largesse to well-connected private organizations.” His previous bill required that surcharge revenue from newly authorized commemorative coin programs would be deposited in the U.S. Treasury for deficit reduction. There would be no impact to programs which have already been authorized.
His letter concluded, “Congress shouldn’t use commemorative coins to fundraise for private groups, and this bill puts a stop to that practice.”
For 2013, there are two commemorative coin programs which have been authorized by Congress. The first recognizes the centennial of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America with proof and uncirculated silver dollars. Each coin carries a surcharge of $10, which is distributable to the Girl Scouts of the USA for program development and delivery. These coins went on sale February 28, 2013.
The second program for this year was authorized to recognize and celebrate the U.S. Army 5-Star Generals attendance and graduation from the Command and General Staff College with proof and uncirculated gold coins, silver dollars, and clad half dollars. The surcharges of $35 per gold coin, $10 per silver dollar, and $5 per half dollar are distributable to the Secretary to the Command and General Staff College Foundation to help finance its support of the Command and General Staff College. The coins will go on sale at the US Mint on March 21, 2013.
For forthcoming years, the following commemorative coins have already been authorized with the indicated beneficiary organizations:
- 2014 Civil Rights Act of 1964 Sesquicentennial Commemorative Coins – surcharges distributable to the United Negro College Fund.
- 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coins – surcharges distributable to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
- 2015 US Marshals Service Commemorative Coins – first $5 million of surcharges distributable to the US Marshals Museum with additional amounts distributed in thirds to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation, and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
- 2016 Mark Twain Commemorative Coins – surcharges distributable to the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut; the University of California in Berkeley, California; Elmira College in New York; and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri.
- 2017 Lions Clubs International Centennial Coins – surcharges distributable to the Lions Clubs International Foundation.