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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Illinois May Spend $100,000,000 To "Lure" Obama's Presidential Library to State

Posted by on Thu, May 1, 2014 at 8:10 AM


The Democrats, who run this state, regularly fret over Illinois’s financial woes—the unpaid bills, the mortifying credit ratings, the benefits cuts to save one of the nation’s most underfunded pension systems. But then there is the dream of becoming home to Barack Obama’s presidential library, which is, it seems, a whole different matter. “In this case, we’re talking about a son of Illinois who became president of the United States,” Michael J. Madigan, the longtime Democratic speaker of the Illinois House, said on Wednesday, urging fellow lawmakers to pledge $100 million in state money as a way to help lure the presidential library here—and away from other states with claims on the president’s history, like New York and Hawaii.... Republicans do not see it that way. “The Democrats are putting up five or six different income tax hike proposals—all under the guise that we don’t even have enough money to run basic state services, but then let’s find $100 million for the library?” said Jim Durkin, the Republicans’ House leader. “I’m just baffled. I’m dumbfounded.”

Richard Nixon's presidential library cost $25,000,000. Jimmy Carter's presidential library cost $26,000,000. George H. W. Bush's presidential library cost $43,000,000. Bill Clinton's presidential library cost $165,000,000. George W. Bush's presidential library cost $250,000,000. The estimated cost of building Obama's presidential library are coming in at $500,000,000.

A half a billion dollars for a presidential library.

Barack Obama is our 44th president. There are only "13 presidential libraries and museums" in the United States, according to the NYT. So somehow US presidents used to come and go without leaving a presidential library/foundation/monument in their wake.

You know what I would love to see? Barack Obama put an end to this insanity by donating his papers to a university—I'd vote for the University of Chicago—along with enough money to permanently house his administration's papers and cover the salaries of however many archivists and librarians are needed to staff up the place. I would love to hear Obama say, "You know what? This Ozymandias shit ends with me."

It won't happen, of course. And Hillary Clinton will break ground on the first $1 trillion presidential library sometime in 2025.


Comments (23) RSS

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Are the numbers adjusted for inflation? Why is the cost of this widget increasing so rapidly?
Posted by wxPDX on May 1, 2014 at 8:22 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 3
That's dumbfounding. At least sport arenas costing that much serve a popular purpose. Jesus...
Posted by Matt from Denver on May 1, 2014 at 8:43 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 4
Dan is clearly Li(brary)-phobic. For shame.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on May 1, 2014 at 8:45 AM · Report this
Look at it from Illinois' point of view, sheerly on the basis of economic development. If $100 M will get you $500 M, isn't that a worthy goal? Think of the jobs, the construction, the tourists.

Look at how other states pimp themselves out for auto assembly plants, or chip fabs, or aerospace companies, investing tons not only in long-term tax abatements, but actual money for construction, only to have those companies fuck over and abandon the state to more convenient climes whenever they want. (Boeing, anyone?)

At least a Presidential Library isn't going anywhere. That employment and tourism will stay put. And how many opportunities does a state get to develop a new historical attraction? France hasn't given us any new Statues of Liberty lately. I don't see Chicago getting a new Mt. Rushmore anytime soon.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on May 1, 2014 at 8:59 AM · Report this
CC-Rob 7
Here's an idea. How about all the huge corporations, that have been profiting from Obama's lax government enforcement (See Eric Holder and Wall Street) fund the library.

I agree that he should donate his papers to the University of Chicago, but presidential egos are too damn big for such a modest gesture.
Posted by CC-Rob on May 1, 2014 at 9:02 AM · Report this
fletc3her 8
A presidential library must create tens of jobs.
Posted by fletc3her on May 1, 2014 at 9:05 AM · Report this
@5: The tourists?

"Hey, mom and dad! Let's go to the Jimmy Carter's presidential library!"

"We're thinking about a honeymoon destination—maybe something near George H. W. Bush's presidential library, which we're both dying to visit."

"We summer in Cape Cod but we winter at Richard Nixon's presidential library."

Posted by Dan Savage on May 1, 2014 at 9:11 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 10
Ross Perot is building himself a Presidential Library in Dallas, and he wasn't even Prezdint.

I think Honolulu needs it more than Chicago.
Posted by Max Solomon on May 1, 2014 at 9:12 AM · Report this
@9 Yeah, well you won't catch me standing in line, either. But, I've been to Chicago, and it's an okay city, but I wouldn't make a special trip to go sightseeing. No offense. Not sure what else in the state is worth a trip, either. Other than some Abe Lincoln stuff they've made into a tourist attraction, I couldn't blame Illinois for trying to latch on to some other smidgeon of history to call their own.

By the way, HumpTour was awesome. Thanks for the NYC run. On another note, if you haven't seen the transcript of the 4/23 oral arguments in the Oregon marriage equality case, it's a fun legal read, with the State siding with the Plaintiffs. The "argument" was entirely over what to base the decision on so it won't get overturned in the future.…
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on May 1, 2014 at 9:31 AM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 12
To be fair, GWB's library is more of an amusement park ride than an actual library.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on May 1, 2014 at 9:45 AM · Report this
@7 That's pretty much who is going to pay for a Presidential library. I believe they're built primarily with private donations. Illinois is just offering to kick in state money to influence the future Board deciding to build it there.

Once built, the Feds pick up operating costs and salaries, wherever it's built.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on May 1, 2014 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Banna 14
How is a Presidential Library paid for and funded?

A Presidential Library is constructed with private or non-Federal funds donated to non-profit organizations established usually for the express purpose of building a Presidential Library and supporting its programs. Some libraries have also received construction and development funding from state and/or local governments.

The library is then transferred to the Federal government and operated and maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) through its congressionally appropriated operating budget. Some staff and programs at Presidential libraries are paid for with funds from associated private foundations organized to fund the construction of the library and provide continuing support for library programs and special events, such as conferences and exhibitions.

Looks like most of the up front funds are from private donations and the rest come from the national archives.

Taxpayers will pay for the archivists either way (state level for U of C or federal level for an independent library) so WTF cares if the contents of Obama's file cabinets go to a university or a privately funded library? Why wouldn't Illinois pay $100k for $500M worth of construction and librarian jobs?
Posted by Banna on May 1, 2014 at 9:58 AM · Report this
MacCrocodile 15
@9 - On the other hand, if you find yourself in Independence, Missouri for some godawful reason, there are worse ways to spend a day than touring the Truman home, library, and/or museum.
Posted by MacCrocodile on May 1, 2014 at 9:58 AM · Report this
I wonder how much people are going to complain about the international airport and the aircraft carrier.
Posted by GermanSausage on May 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM · Report this
rob! 17
Two words: legacy control. It's big business. Imagine putting all the papers, tapes, e-mails, etc. of any modern president into a giant freely available digital archive. (One possible upside is the distraction of thousands of conspiracy theorists who would otherwise be preoccupied with current events.)

Put another way, imagine the chaos of putting the full holdings of any major museum (Smithsonian, etc.) in giant warehouses with minimal curation, organization or signage.

I don't have an answer; it does seem that the cost trend is unsustainable.
Posted by rob! on May 1, 2014 at 10:26 AM · Report this
Dano, you never cease to astound me!

First, it was your faith-based support of the illegal Bush invasion of Iraq (to insure that country went back to trading oil in US dollars; to insure they would finally accept foreign ownership of their banks and accept credit derivatives usage [WTO Financial Services Agreement, Fifth Protocol] and that their oil flowed mainly to China in support of the multinationals' factories and production facilities), then it was your acceptance of everything coming out of the State Department and the CIA and the American Corporate McNews regarding the events in Ukraine (more blind faith in American Exceptionalism), and now it is your pure, unqualified ignorance of the presidential payoff system.

How in bloody hell do you think the Clintons became worth $100 million within a year of leaving the White House, dood?

How do you think Obama will be paid off for his extreme support of the banksters, dood?

Geez, get a clue, dood. . . .
Posted by sgt_doom on May 1, 2014 at 10:39 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 19
The reason presidents used to come and go without a library was that the Presidential Libraries Act was passed in 1955, and only covers presidents since Hoover. There are some earlier presidents, like Lincoln, who also have libraries, but they're not in the National Archives system. This shit is all on Wikipedia. Obama can't really put a stop to it; he'd have to ask Congress to repeal the 1955 law, and the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and the Presidential Libraries Act of 1986.

And of course the way all that would look is that Obama was trying to hide documents from the public. So Obama would never even consider such a foolish move, even if Congress were about to change these laws.

Why to rich people donate more than ever to these things? Because rich people today have more of the money than ever. The more wealth gets concentrated at the top, the bigger the monuments the rich can buy.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on May 1, 2014 at 11:58 AM · Report this
Let next banking crisis and crashed economy be the monument to Obama's legacy to the nation. Or maybe a bronze plaque on the cross continent oil sludge pipeline. We are all moving forward, right?
Posted by kwodell on May 1, 2014 at 12:59 PM · Report this
rob! 21
Two more words: brand management. It's a way of maximizing the income possible from book deals and lecture tours; and, to be fair, the amount of good that can be done by initiatives more ambitious than paint-by-numbers. Those, in turn, are forms of compensation that offset in part the actual paltry financial compensation while in the White House and the relatively few opportunities there for outright Yanukovych-style theft. It helps make the presidency somewhat more attractive to people who aren't billionaires going in.

As above @17, I'm deeply ambivalent.
Posted by rob! on May 1, 2014 at 1:11 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 22
Thomas Jefferson arguably started this, when he donated all his books to congress upon his death. That later became the Library of Congress (which is an awesome building to visit if you are a book nerd, or just like old domed architecture).

Rather than build a new library for every president, they aught to just hand over their archives to the Library of Congress and be done with it.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on May 1, 2014 at 1:30 PM · Report this
Pharaohs love their pyramids.
Posted by blissfulight on May 1, 2014 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Is the Savagerian insistence on Ms Clinton being the only possible successor to the incumbent coming from a desire for maximum value of Republicans having to eat it, or will Mr S's women friends with "fabulous" apartments drop him from their guest lists if he doesn't toe the establishment line. I'd have preferred Ms C to her husband, but surely now there must be other women. Now that one-term senators are no longer ruled out, why not get two firsts with one election and elevate Ms Baldwin? If marriage is still trending in the right direction, she could even wed during the campaign, and despite years of having to beat the system, she still has some air of freshness that seems to be an asset.
Posted by vennominon on May 1, 2014 at 4:54 PM · Report this
You're howling at the moon, Dan. Obama and all subsequent Presidents of the United States will have a library. Inflation is surely a factor in the increase in construction costs, though I agree vanity has a role too.

Now as to the state of Illinois kick-starting things with a $100 million appropriation, I agree that is problematic given that state's serious budget woes. Besides, even with no state funding, I think Illinois is way out in the lead for landing the library. Presidential libraries have always largely been built with private donations, and are operated by the National Archives.

Even if no library is built (HA!), the National Archives would still be responsible for maintaining Obama's papers.

And as to mocking the notion of a Presidential library being a tourist attraction? Please. Obama is a consequential two-term President, and putting his Library in an urban area like Chicago will indeed be a significant draw for tourists and historians. The best comparable in my opinion is JFK's library in Boston, not a Nixon or a Bush.
Posted by Functional Atheist on May 1, 2014 at 5:07 PM · Report this

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