Plouffe, Obama sibling Soetoro-Ng join Obama Foundation Board

Written By Lynn Sweet Posted: 07/02/2014, 10:52am

WASHINGTON — The Chicago-based Barack Obama Foundation announced Wednesday it added two members to its board: David Plouffe, the former White House senior adviser who was President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and a half-sister of the president, Maya Soetoro-Ng.

The foundation also pushed back its timeline to mid-September for making a short list of bidders for the Obama Library and Museum who will be asked to respond to a “Request for a Proposal.”  First round bids were submitted on June 16.

The foundation still expects to announce a site early in 2015. The addition of Soetoro-Ng is significant in that she lives in Hawaii and knows the players who have put together the bid from Hawaii to host the library and museum, or, in the more realistic alternative, be the home of a “Presidential Center” in the state where Obama was born. The other leading bidders are offering sites in New York and Chicago.

“There are few people who know the President’s life and vision better than the individuals joining our Foundation team today,” Foundation Board Chair Martin Nesbitt said in a statement. “President Obama deeply trusts their advice, judgment, and expertise, and we are confident that his future Presidential Library will be stronger for their input.”

Stepping down from the board to direct fund-raising for the foundation is Julianna Smoot, the 2012 Obama campaign deputy manager who was the 2008 Obama campaign finance director. Smoot, who is also a former White House Social Secretary is a founder of the Smoot Tewes political consulting firm. 

Smoot, tasked with raising hundreds of millions of dollars, switched roles in order to avoid any conflicts.  A foundation spokesperson told me, “Everyone agreed that it was important to create a separation between the fundraising and decision-making processes to avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest.”

Plouffe formalizes his informal role with this appointment; he has been part of a cadre of close Obama associates who have been advising the foundation. The other informal advisors are former deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco and former speech writer Jon Favreau.

Nesbitt, a close friend of the president, is the co-CEO of Chicago-based The Vistria Group and treasurer of Obama’s two White House campaigns; the other board member is J. Kevin Poorman, the Wilmette businessman who took over several companies run by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when she stepped down to join Obama’s cabinet.

Background, from the Foundation: David Plouffe served as senior advisor to President Obama until January 2013 and as his campaign manager during the 2008 election.  He has managed campaigns at all levels of politics, served as a consultant to leading Fortune 500 companies, and is a contributor for ABC News and Bloomberg Television.

Maya Soetoro-Ng is President Obama’s half-sister and is currently a specialist for the Matsunaga Institute for Peace. She is the co-founder of a nonprofit, Our Public School, which works to connect public schools to the communities that surround them. She has co-created a program of peace education called Ceeds of Peace which has been implemented in Hawaii schools and communities.  Previously, Maya worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawai’i’s College of Education and taught in both private and public settings in New York City and in Hawaii. She also worked as an Education Specialist at the East West Center, promoting international educational exchange between Asia and the United States. Ms. Soetoro-Ng received a Masters degree in Secondary Education from NYU’s College of Education and a PhD in Multicultural Education from the University of Hawai?i.

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