The Obama Presidential Center planned for Chicago is nothing more than a personal monument to Barack Obama and a center for political indoctrination in his radical views. It serves no public purpose the way that a presidential library would. Obama’s presidential papers will not be housed there, and no scholars will be afforded the opportunity to explore the history of his presidency.
And, this is receiving vast public subsidies, despite assurances that it would be privately funded. Barack and Michelle Obama have been playing a major role in its design, in a fashion reminiscent of a dictator putting up monuments to himself in some third world country. As the revised design stands, it will look like a cenotaph bizarrely erected before the death and burial of its principal.
I have written several pieces about the folly of the OPC. But I am delighted to be joined in this by the Wall Street Journal. In an article there, Mark Glennon challenges the vast subsidies that all American taxpayers will be affording this personal and political endeavor:
Illinois taxpayers will put up at least $174 million for roadway and transit reconfigurations needed to accommodate the Obama Center. If you don’t live in Illinois, you may be smirking—but you’ll be footing the bill, too. Eighty percent of such spending is generally reimbursed by the federal government, and Illinois officials confirmed to me that they expect to receive $139 million from Washington if they request it.
Bait and switch
Taxpayers were softened up by a bait and switch strategy:
In a 2014 request for proposal, the Obama Foundation said that the planned presidential library “will include an Institute that will enhance the pursuit of the President’s initiatives beyond 2017.” This institute now seems to have taken over the project. As the Chicago Tribune reported in February: “Obama said he envisions his center as a place where young people from around the world can meet each other, get training and prepare to become the next generation of leaders.” No doubt, his definition of “leaders” will be political.
Which raises the question of why the state and city are giving the Obama Center official support. Back when it was still being sold as an official presidential library, the city of Chicago took steps to allow the project to be built in Jackson Park. Under a deal approved by the City Council in May, the Obama Foundation will lease 19.3 acres in perpetuity for $1.
One dollar for perpetual use of a huge amount of priceless lakefront land.
Fortunately, this is not going to happen without a legal challenge:
A nonprofit group called Protect our Parks has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that this violates state law. The suit calls the Obama Center a “bait and switch,” since the “public purpose” of a presidential library no longer exists.
I am proud to report that my work was cited in that lawsuit.
Promises made, promises broken
Last fall WTTW, a Chicago public television station, was reporting skeptically on “preliminary plans” for Illinois to cough up $100 million to “assist” the Obama Center: “How could a public financing proposal fly in a state that is bleeding red ink, especially when the Obamas have promised 100 percent private funding?”
The Obama Foundation responds that no public money will flow into its coffers (the tax deductibility of donations is another matter). But a hundred and seenty-four million taxpayer dollars spent on construction specifically designed for the facility is a subsidy, period.