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May 13, 2015

Obama Library Likely to Raise Big Money and Ethics Worries

As the Barack Obama Foundation gears up to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to build the Obama presidential library in Chicago, its efforts are already being scrutinized by watchdog groups concerned about potential conflicts of interest, McClatchy and Politico report.

Fundraising is likely to begin in earnest with Tuesday's announcement that Chicago's South Side will be home to the facility. Julianna Smoot, a longtime Obama fundraiser, has been tapped to oversee the effort. The president has pledged not to solicit for the library while he remains in office, and the foundation said it will not accept gifts from foreign sources, corporations, or federal lobbyists during that time. The complex is expected to open in 2020 or 2021.

More than $500 million was raised to build the George W. Bush presidential library in Dallas. Watchdog groups say that even with restrictions in place, fundraising for Mr. Obama's center raises ethical red flags. "Even if he doesn’t solicit himself, [donors] are seeing all kinds of signals that this is a priority for him," said Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center. "It buys access."