With barely three years to go in his final term, President Barack Obama’s presidential library still needs to find a home.
With Obama’s blessing, top supporters are launching a foundation to develop and build the library, which will house his presidential records and serve as a monument to his legacy.
The nonprofit Barack H. Obama Foundation will be led by Marty Nesbitt, a close Obama friend from Chicago, and Julianna Smoot, a former White House social secretary and top official in Obama’s re-election campaign.
A competition to host the library has already begun. Hawaii, where Obama was born, and Illinois, his longtime home, have been doing some lobbying.
In New York, Obama’s alma mater, Columbia University, also has hinted at interest.
“Columbia is proud to count President Obama among its alumni,” wrote Robert Hornsby, a university spokesman. “We look forward to learning more about the plans of the Barack H. Obama Foundation for the development of a library reflecting the president’s values and priorities.”
But some skeptical donors told The New York Times that the library doesn’t belong anywhere but Chicago. They wrote off Columbia’s statement as a way to create concern that the Windy City might lose out to Big Apple.
“They need this to be a bit of a bidding war,” one prominent Obama donor told the Times on the condition of anonymity.
Some prominent Obama donors have heard from people close to the president that he would rather live his post-presidential life in New York than Chicago, which they say feels “small for him,” the Times reports.
“No specific site, institution, city or state is advantaged over another at this point,” Nesbitt said. “The ultimate site will be chosen based on the merits.”
In February, the foundation will ask parties that want to host the library to make their interest known. That list will be culled and in May, the foundation will notify the groups that will be invited to submit formal, detailed proposals. The president and first lady Michelle Obama will make the decision, and the foundation will announce it in early 2015.
“He has asked us to lead the planning and development of a library in a way that reflects his values and priorities over the course of his career in public service,” Nesbitt said — values like expanding economic opportunity, promoting peace and dignity abroad, and inspiring the ethic of American citizenship.
The foundation plans to hire full-time staff later this year. Although it will start fund-raising right away to cover its own costs, most of the money to build the library won’t be raised until after Obama leaves the White House. While Obama is still in office, the foundation won’t take donations from foreigners, lobbyists or organizations that aren’t nonprofits. It also plans to disclose all donations over $200.
The president, Mrs. Obama and White House staffers won’t raise money for the foundation until Obama leaves office, the group said. Obama will be kept up to date but won’t be closely involved in the screening of the site proposals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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