President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and a cadre of top aides are methodically drafting plans for a "digital-first" presidential library and global foundation that could require an infrastructure and endowment costing as much as $1 billion, double what George W. Bush raised for his library and its programs, the New York Times reports.
Including construction costs, Obama's associates have set a goal of raising at least $800 million — enough to avoid the neverending fundraising the Clinton Presidential Center has engaged in to cover its operating costs. While the Obama Foundation has raised more than $5.4 million to date from twelve donors, foundation officials told the Times the real push for donations will come after Obama leaves office. The planning process for the library has begun, however, marked by the same fierce discipline and fundraising ambition that characterized Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
Later this month in Chicago, where the library will be located, foundation officials will kick off a global search for an architect for the project. Marty Nesbitt, a longtime friend of the president's who is leading the planning effort, also runs committees overseeing the architecture, fundraising, and what the organizers call "vision" for the future library. According to top advisors, the areas of focus in Obama's post-presidency likely will include criminal justice reform, race relations, and foreign policy, as well as civic engagement, opportunities for youth, and making government more efficient.
At the heart of the planning process, however, is Obama's own outreach efforts to an eclectic group that has included venture capitalist John Doerr, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, hedge fund manager Marc Lasry, actress Eva Longoria, author Toni Morrison, and film director Steven Spielberg. Among the topics of discussion are how technology can be used to provide global access to the presidential library and how visible Obama should seek to be. One top aide told the Times that Obama respected Bush's decision to limit his public appearances but also admired Clinton's aggressive use of the spotlight to advance his agenda.
David Plouffe, one of Obama's closest former aides and a member of the library foundation board, told the Times, "My sense is that he's probably a blend of the two."