HR-1047 Passes -- Now What?
This week, HR-1047 received final approval in the legislature and was forwarded to the President for signing.
Wayne G. Sayles |
October 15, 2004
This week, HR-1047 received final approval in the legislature and was forwarded to the President for signing. This bill was initially introduced in the House of Representatives as the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2003. It first appeared on the radar screen of ancient coin collectors when a similar version was sponsored by Senator Grassley of Iowa in the Senate and passed as S-671. The Senate version included a litany of obscure special interest attachments, one of which would restrict the importation of antiquities from Iraq. Actually, Senator Grassley had earlier introduced essentially the same wording on import restrictions in Senate bill S-1291, co-sponsored by Senators Baucus and Santorum, which died in the Finance committee. The portion of HR-1047 affecting collectors is referred to as "TITLE IV--IRAQI CULTURAL ANTIQUITIES". The summary is relatively short, so it is included here in its entirety:
SEC. 4001. SHORT TITLE. This title may be cited as the `Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004'.
SEC. 4002. EMERGENCY IMPLEMENTATION OF IMPORT RESTRICTIONS.
(a) AUTHORITY- The President may exercise the authority of the President under section 304 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 2603) with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of Iraq as if Iraq were a State Party under that Act, except that, in exercising such authority, subsection (c) of such section shall not apply.
(b) DEFINITION- In this section, the term `archaeological or ethnological material of Iraq' means cultural property of Iraq and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, or religious importance illegally removed from the Iraq National Museum, the National Library of Iraq, and other locations in Iraq, since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 661 of 1990.
SEC. 4003. TERMINATION OF AUTHORITY. The authority of the President under section 4002 shall terminate upon the earlier of-- (1) the date that is 5 years after the date on which the President certifies to Congress that normalization of relations between the United States and the Government of Iraq has been established; or (2) September 30, 2009.
In Section 4002(a) above, there is an exclusion of subsection 304(c) of the CCPIA. This exclusion effectively removes the protections provided in the CCPIA. Specifically, it:
(1) Removes the requirement for a State Party to request import restriction of antiquites.
(2) Removes the review process of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, a balanced and non-partisan committee authorized by 19 U.S.C. 2603.
(3) Removes the term limits of any emergency restriction imposed.
(4) Gives any treaty ratified by the Senate precedence over provisions recommended by CPAC.
These are exceedingly dangerous deviations from the existing law. Strictly applied, they could eliminate the process by which the views and concerns of collectors are presented to the U.S. government.
There are numerous questions that weigh heavily on the minds of ancient coin collectors across the country:
What does this mean?
The passage of this bill means that any customs official who has reason to suspect or believe, for whatever reason, that an imported object (including a single coin) might be from Iraq, or have some possibility of being an object that was at any time in history a part of the cultural heritage of Iraq, should impound that object and force the receiving party to prove that it is not an object so described. The burden of proof is no longer on the government, it is on the individual. The most basic tenet of our legal system has been violated. In theory, every ancient coin entering America could be challenged by customs officials. In reality, this is virtually impossible due to the manpower requirement and there would surely be some amelioration of the restriction -- eventually. Nevertheless, the immediate impact could be severe to small dealers in coins and antiquities who cannot afford to fight the bureaucracy and cannot afford to have their assets tied up in impounded material. It might well put some "mom and pop" operations out of business.
How long will it be before the repercussions of this bill will be felt?
That is difficult to say. The process by which legislation becomes enforceable administration policy can at times be rather lengthy. The Hobby Protection Act (HR-9448) was introduced by Representative James McClure of Idaho in March of 1969. It was not signed into law until November 1973, by President Nixon, and for all intents and purposes the law has never been enforced. Of course the Hobby Protection Act has never had an aggressive advocate like HR-1047 does. It is likely that the archaeological community will exert all of the influence that they can to force the implementation of HR 1047 and sooner rather than later. In any event, there are processes to be followed and there are still opportunities for input from dissenters.
Why have archaeologists singled out ancient coin collectors?
Well, actually they haven't. There is already intense pressure from this group against collectors of all sorts of antiquities from Classical to Pre-Columbian. And, the archaeologists have taken aim at metal detector enthusiasts who search for Americana like Colonial and Civil War artifacts. Collectors of fossils and Native American artifacts have been under fire for years. The belief of the archaeological community is that if any object is more than 100 years old, and it came out of the ground, it is sacrosanct and only within their purview to recover, study, interpret and protect. Even museums are under extreme pressure to display only objects that have a provenance acceptable to the archaeological community. To put the situation in a nut shell, archaeologists want total control of the past. They seem to honestly believe that they are the only members of society qualified and deserving enough to unravel the secrets of the past. How long will it be before they convince naive legislators to burn our books?
What has been done to fight this attack on our liberties and freedoms?
The International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) have, during the past year, funded legal representation in Washington, D.C. with the objective of presenting the views of the numismatic community to lawmakers, and continue to do so. Their laudable effort not only serves the interests of their members, but of collectors in general. The American Numismatic Association, while not primarily focussed on ancient coin collecting, has stood by our side in opposition to HR 1047. Several prominent members of the hobby have dedicated considerable time and energy to making the views of collectors heard in Washington. This past summer, an organization was formed for the purpose of uniting collectors in a way that the hobby has never before seen. The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) was created to promote and nurture the free and independent collecting of coins from antiquity through education, political action and consumer protection. The goal of this guild is to foster an environment in which the general public can confidently and legally acquire and hold, for personal or professional use, any numismatic item of historical interest regardless of date or place of origin. The ACCG has assumed sole sponsorship of the Vcoins Fax Wizard, which allows individual collectors to send a free fax directly to their congressional representative and other key legislators. The Fax Wizard even identifies the applicable decision makers based on the user's zip code. Members and committee heads of the ACCG have sent numerous letters to legislators and their staff members, have made personal phone calls to key figures in Washington, and have even made attempts to reach out to the archaeological community.
Why have efforts on behalf of collectors failed thus far?
The main reason that this adverse legislation passed is that the collector community, as concerned as it is, did not present a strong united front. The Archaeological Institute of America has nearly 9,000 members and has years of experience in promoting its agenda through the national media and in Congress. Even though the number of ancient coin collectors in the United States far exceeds that number, it is very difficult to convince collectors that they should support a national organization. Frankly, they have barely supported local clubs. The rash of media coverage deploring the destruction or looting of antiquities in Iraq since the recent invasion provided a golden opportunity for zealots within the archaeological community to ride a wave of public opinion and push through initiatives that in the past have floundered in various legislative committees. It was the right time and the right place for a frontal assault and the AIA wasted no time and spared no energy in taking advantage of the situation. Even after the truth of early distortions was known, apologists for the AIA continued to hammer on the issue, and advance their agenda, in by-lined articles across the country. Even the United Nations became an ally, at least in perception, of the AIA by passing a resolution on the preservation of Iraqi Cultural Property. We were simply out manned and out maneuvered.
Is there any good news?
Yes, believe it or not, HR-1047 is not as bad as the original legislation (HR-2009) introduced by Congressman English of Pennsylvania. There is a five year sunset on the provisions in HR-1047 and the wording of the law gives the administration the "authority" to impose restrictions, not the "mandate" to do so. The wording does allow some discretion in how (or if) the administration chooses to enforce the provisions. That means that there is still an opportunity for the collector's view to be considered during the development of implementing regulations. In fact, the Legislative Affairs Committee of the ACCG will be very actively involved in this process. The passage of HR-1047 will probably relieve some of the pressure on Congress to address worldwide perceptions (or misconceptions) of a cultural disaster in Iraq. That may make it easier for the collector's point of view to be considered in any subsequent legislation of this nature. The best news is that the collecting fraternity has finally become energized.
Now is the best time for the ACCG to do exactly what the AIA has been doing effectively for years. We need to build a strong and active membership, be visible to the general public and become good ambassadors for ancient coin collecting. We need to build a strong public relations program and gain the attention and respect of decision makers in Washington and in state governments. While the AIA apologists link us to all sorts of underworld activity from looting to the Mafia, we need to show the world how much good ancient coin collectors have done in the past and are still doing today. We need to turn our own past complacency into dedicated activism. Most of all, we need to demonstrate that we have the resolve to see this challenge through to a favorable conclusion. The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (http://accg.us) is building programs to do all of these things. Some good work has already been done and momentum is building. It will be very difficult for the archaeological community to gain this kind of advantage on us again, and eventually we will see the hobby improved, more resilient and much more united. We cannot afford to remain a silent majority in the world that we live in today.
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