It’s sad that Obama is doing this.

by Andrew Gelman on January 17, 2013 · 5 comments

in Interest Groups,Presidency

Thomas Ferguson sends along this news article by Lisa Lerer and Jonathan Salant:

Obama’s Inaugural Fundraising Lays Groundwork for Legacy

President Barack Obama has mused about his legacy . . . Now, he’s beginning to prepare for it, starting by embracing a new sponsor: Corporate America. . . . His shift from four years ago, when he banned company funding, marks an early strategic step toward building the organization that will finance his presidential library, foundation and other post-White House aspirations, advisers say.

“With a two-term president, you have the luxury of planning time,” said Skip Rutherford, who helped raise $165 million for former President Bill Clinton’s library and works as dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. . . .

For his second inauguration, Obama plans to raise $50 million from individuals and corporations. Financing his career after leaving office will cost orders of magnitude more: The price tag of his presidential library alone could easily exceed $500 million, according to presidential library experts. . . .

This just seems sad to me. You’d have to expect that whatever Obama does in the next 4 years will have much more impact than what he does in the future. Now he’s president. In 4 years he’ll just be one more well-connected rich guy. What a pointless goal.

Yes, I recognize that retired presidents ranging from Herbert Hoover to Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton have had active public lives. Not to mention John Quincy Adams. But Obama will have plenty to have an active life when the time comes—-billions or no billions. In the meantime, I’d prefer for him to focus on his current job.

Congressmembers spending all their time begging for cash is pretty sad, but at least they have the excuse that they (might) need the money for reelection. But for a second-term president to do this, just suggests a terribly misplaced set of priorities.

Although I can see this happening without it exactly being Obama’s intention. Lots of people in the Obama orbit can skim a lot of money off all these donations, so I could see them putting a lot of effort into convincing him to raise this money, even if it isn’t particularly a priority of his own.

{ 5 comments }

AP January 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I’m not sure it’s so sad. Presidential libraries aren’t just about a “legacy,” they’re repositories for history. And he doesn’t seem like the type of president to shrink from the public arena W-style. It’s a bit much to characterize a former president as “one more well-connected rich guy.” Also, it’s not like he’s personally doing all of this..as you said, it’s likely he’s not the one putting the real muscle into this planning.

Andrew Gelman January 17, 2013 at 11:02 pm

AP:

Sure, but then there’s this part: “Aides, who asked for anonymity to discuss strategy, say raising that amount of money will be impossible unless they build bridges to corporate donors — and give their exhausted, long-time political campaign supporters a break.”

Adam January 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

It’s hard to tell whether the anonymous quote is referring to raising enough money for the inauguration or for a future Presidential library.

If it’s the former, which to me makes more sense, then he’s not necessarily thinking more about the future than the next 4 years. And I’m sure most Presidents and pundits think that the success of an inauguration has a much bigger effect on their political capital than is actually the case.

AP January 18, 2013 at 12:54 am

Point taken. I can see it being a bit of a distraction in that case, and I suppose I’m not entirely comfortable with their short term planning being weighed against corporate support in the future.

RobC January 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Only $500 million for the library? Jeez, just the thousand-foot statue’s gonna cost that much.

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