But they have morphed into something quite different.
The Chicago Tribune reported recently that the Obama Library could cost $500 million.
Yes, you read that right — half a billion dollars.
Plans are already underway to build it — and he’s not even out of office.
By comparison — Abraham Lincoln had been dead about 140 years before a presidential library was opened in his honor.
Richard Nixon built his library in 1990 for $25 million — entirely with private dollars. That would be the equivalent of $44 million today.
That should be the model for how all of these libraries are built.
After all, we know anyone who has been elected president has an aptitude for raising money.
That’s a necessary part of any successful campaign for the White House.
So why not leave it up to retiring politicians to raise the money for their own libraries and leave taxpayers out of the mix?
And let’s close the book on this idea of our cash-strapped state spending $100 million toward burnishing a contemporary politician’s legacy.
That’s a task politicians can do well enough on their own.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.