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Obama presidential library search kicks off

February 1, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The formal process to build a library housing President Barack Obama’s presidential records and artifacts began Friday with the formation of a new foundation, launched by top supporters with Obama’s blessing, that will develop and build the monument to his legacy.

The nonprofit Barack H. Obama Foundation will be led by Marty Nesbitt, a close Obama friend from Chicago, and Julianna Smoot, a former White House social secretary and top official in Obama’s re-election campaign.

A vigorous competition to host the library is already underway. Hawaii, where Obama was born, and Illinois, his longtime home, have been lobbying the Obamas both publicly and privately. New York, where Obama went to college, also has expressed interest.

With so many of Obama’s aides and supporters calling Chicago home, the focus has increasingly turned there, where Obama was first elected and came into his own as a national political figure. The involvement of Nesbitt, a Chicago businessman, in forming the foundation is likely to amplify speculation that Chicago has an inside track to getting the library. The third founding member of the nonprofit’s board, Kevin Poorman, is also based in Chicago and runs a company formed by Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker, who is now Obama’s commerce secretary.

“No specific site, institution, city or state is advantaged over another at this point,” Nesbitt said in an interview. “The ultimate site will be chosen based on the merits.”

In February, the foundation will ask parties that want to host the library to make their interest known. That list will be culled and in May, the foundation will notify the groups that will be invited to submit formal, detailed proposals. The president and first lady Michelle Obama will make the final decision, and the foundation will announce it in early 2015.

In addition to serving as the official repository for presidential records and artifacts, the libraries often have an accompanying presidential center as a vehicle for ex-presidents to promoting policies and coordinate humanitarian efforts after leaving office. Some groups already vying for Obama’s library have proposed that he build a center or institute in one location and the library in another.

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