For the Library, Tough Fundraising Challenges Ahead

There's concern that President Bush will face problems raising money to build his presidential library


President Bush's friends are concerned that he will face serious problems raising the estimated $250 million needed to build his presidential library, museum, and policy center at Southern Methodist University. The Dallas school recently agreed to house the facilities, but family friends say coming up with the money won't be easy. They fear that Bush's unpopularity will put a damper on donations and that the sour economy will limit contributions even more. Then there is the matter of an endowment to keep the library going, which could cost an additional $50 million. Alarms went off among Bush supporters after the president commented on the library at a news conference in late February. Bush was asked about the fundraising situation, and he didn't seem to be paying much attention to the details. "I'll probably take some foreign money but don't know yet," the president said. "We just announced the deal, and I, frankly, have been focused elsewhere, like on gasoline prices and, you know, my trip to Africa and haven't seen the fundraising strategy yet." Fair enough. But presidential libraries tend to become pet projects for their namesakes. So raising money will inevitably take on increasing importance for Bush as his presidency winds down.

Meanwhile, the costs of such facilities keep going up. The library and museum of George H. W. Bush, the current president's father, in College Station, Texas, cost $83 million. A decade later, Bill Clinton's facilities in Little Rock, Ark., cost $165 million.