The Clinton Foundation isn’t going to be the last money-grubbing institution established by a former president. Another foundation money race is already on.
Hours before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Barak Obama posted a two-minute video on Obama.org calling on Americans to contribute to the Obama Foundation which will oversee the construction of the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.
The Obama Foundation will “focus on developing the next generation of citizens — and what it means to be a good citizen in the 21st century,” according to obama.org.
The Obama Foundation will try to raise money from the public to build and help maintain the Barack Obama Presidential Center. The Foundation has already raised $7.3 million at the end of 2015. The fundraising total for 2016 hasn’t been disclosed. The Center is expected to cost $1 billion.
“We once held the office of president, as well as its occupant, in high regard,” Anthony Clark wrote in his book, The Last Campaign: How Presidents Rewrite History, Run for Posterity, and Enshrine Their Legacies. “As we have lowered our opinions of both, presidential libraries, consequently, have grown larger and more powerful—and, not incidentally, less truthful.”
Writing in Salon, Clark said presidential centers tend to be “proud, defensive, and a little self-absorbed” that eventually become theme parks with declining numbers of visitors.
With that in mind, it is discouraging to see the number of extravagant presidential centers continue to grow. Do we really need another library and recklessly large foundation funded by influence seekers and built by a legacy-hungry ex-president?
Unfortunately, each successive administration seems to think its library needs to be more grandiose than its predecessor.
The 135,000 sq. ft. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, including endowment of an Institute at Harvard for the study of politics and public affairs, cost $20.8 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $72.1 million.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs, the largest of all the presidential libraries, cost $60 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be equivalent to a little more than $130 million now.
Obama’s $1 billion project would be twice what George W. Bush raised for his library and its programs.
It would also be more than the $165 million spent on William J. Clinton’s Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Obama’s massive fundraising effort may well lead to all the same conflicts and questions associated with the Clinton Foundation.
It’s time to stop this arms race of ever-expanding presidential libraries and foundations.