The Washington Post

Obama friends begin push for presidential library

A group of President Obama's Chicago friends and political supporters announced Friday that they would begin seeking proposals for his presidential library, a process that will unfold over the course of this year.

The Barack H. Obama Foundation will be headed by Martin Nesbitt, Obama's longtime friend who has served as treasurer for his two successful presidential campaigns. Nesbitt told Chicago Sun Times reporter Lynn Sweet, who broke the story, that group will oversee a “thoughtful, consistent, fair and transparent” selection process to conclude next year. Obama and the first lady, Michelle, will make the final choice.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with former presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush and their wives, former first ladies Barbara Bush  and Laura Bush, at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 2013. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

“We have no preconceived idea about what these proposals will look like. We want to create a blank canvass, create sort of a white canvas with some guiding principles that allow people to respond in a thoughtful and creative way and we will evaluate them when they come in,” Nesbitt, who has been working on the project informally for months, told Sweet.

The group will include Julianna Smoot, a prolific Democratic fundraiser who served as deputy manager of Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, and J. Kevin Poorman, a Chicago businessman who works as a senior executive to companies owned by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Nesbitt told Sweet that such projects can approach $500 million in cost, and so he is encouraging competition. Obama will not participate in fundraising for the project while president.

Various universities may be interested in bidding, including the University of Chicago, Obama's hometown; Columbia University, where Obama received his undergraduate degree; and, the University of Hawaii, the state where Obama grew up.

Scott Wilson is the chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Previously, he was the paper’s deputy Assistant Managing Editor/Foreign News after serving as a correspondent in Latin America and in the Middle East.



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