Obama's Chicago Friends Leading Presidential Library Search

Friday, Jan 31, 2014  |  Updated 7:54 PM EDT
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Does Chicago have the inside track to land President Barack Obama's library? Judging by two of the people heading up the foundation, speculation is stronger than ever.

Does Chicago have the inside track to land President Barack Obama's library? Judging by two of the people heading up the foundation, speculation is stronger than ever.

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Does Chicago have the inside track to land President Barack Obama's library?

Speculation will surely move in that direction with the announcement that Marty Nesbitt -- a close Chicago Obama friend and former campaign treasurer -- is heading up a new foundation to develop and build the post-presidential library.

"I think the vision is that it's a place that's going to reflect the arc of his career and what he spent his time working on throughout his career, promoting economic opportunity, justice and human rights and the pursuit of that ideal of American citizenship," Nesbitt told NBC 5.

Another Chicago businessman, Kevin Poorman, is also heading up the non-profit Barack H. Obama Foundation. Poorman runs a company founded by Obama's Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Julianna Smoot, a former White House social secretary and a top official in Obama's re-election campaign, is also leading the foundation.

Chicago, Obama's native Hawaii, and his college home, New York, have also expressed interest in housing the library.

But despite the Chicago connections, Nesbitt says don't assume the library will land in Illinois.

"We've tried to develop a process that creates a level playing field for any party, community, institution, developer that's interested in submitting a proposal, so we're not ... there's no pre-determination about what's more or less desirable than any other place, Nesbitt said. It'll all be a function of the proposals that folks submit, and the quality of those proposals."

The foundation will do the bulk of the fundraising for the library after Obama's second term ends. Nesbitt says the ultimate decision on where the library goes will be made by President Obama and the First Lady.

"I also think there's a vision of the library through its physical and virtual presence that will serve as an economic anchor for the community that it is ultimately situated in," Nesbitt said.

Last month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated that he wanted the city to put together a cohesive bid for the library. The University of Chicago, Chicago State University and the Bronzeville neighborhood have all expressed interest in hosting it.

U of C president Robert Zimmer released a statement Friday officially expressing interest in hosting the library, saying he firmly believes it should be "located in one of our neighboring communities on the South Side of Chicago."

"Such a location would reflect the personal and professional lives of the Obamas, as well as their commitments to society," Zimmer said.

Obama taught law at U of C before entering politics.

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