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January 22, 2013 11:45 AM It’s Sad That Obama Is Doing This

By Andrew Gelman

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.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.