Obama foundation adds board members: Doerr, Golden, Smoot

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Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the board of the Barack Obama Foundation, announces that the Obama Presidential Library is headed to the South Side of Chicago during a news conference on May 12, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/For Sun-Times Media

WASHINGTON — The Chicago-based Barack Obama Foundation, still mulling the exact South Sidelocation for the Obama Presidential Center, added three members to the small board on Thursday.

The additions, all with ties to President Barack Obama are:

• Billionaire John Doerr, whose venture capital investments have included Amazon and Google, will be taking a special interest in developing state of the art digital capabilities in the Obama center.

• Thelma Golden, director of the The Studio Museum in Harlem, brings to the board expertise in museum development and management.

• Julianna Smoot, a top Obama fundraiser, was a member of the original foundation board. Smoot stepped down in July 2014 to become a paid fundraising consultant for the foundation, with the deal ending last May.

Smoot was the 2012 Obama campaign deputy manager, the 2008 Obama campaign finance director, a former White House social secretary and a founder of the Smoot Tewes political consulting firm.

“It’s an honor to join the Board of the Obama Foundation,” Doerr said in a statement.

“A cornerstone of President Obama’s presidency has been the smart use of technology to improve the lives of all Americans. I look forward to working with the Board and with tech leaders so that the Obama Presidential Center connects us globally — from kids in Hyde Park to soccer fans in Sao Paulo to teachers in Taipei,” he said.

Golden said in a statement: “I am very much looking forward to joining the Board of Directors, and working to make the Obama Presidential Center a hub for creative expression through the arts.

“The South Side of Chicago has historically been the nexus of several important cultural movements for African-Americans, and I believe the new Center will help usher in a new era of community engagement for this extraordinary neighborhood.”

Smoot said in a statement about her return to the board, “I’m thrilled about the opportunity to help bring the Obama Presidential Center to life on the South Side of Chicago. I look forward to working with the Foundation to build a platform for the President and First Lady’s next chapter and ensuring that their life’s work may continue well into the future.”

Last May, I reported that the Smoot’s firm, Smoot Tewes, had been paid $476,551 for fundraising by the foundation and that she ended her paid contract with the group.

The board continues to study whether the Obama Presidential Center — a museum and library —will be located in Jackson Park or Washington Park.

The board chair is Marty Nesbitt, the chief of Vistria, an investment firm he founded, located at 300 E. Randolph. The foundation is headquartered in his firm.

Other board members are:

Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama’s half-sister who lives in Hawaii, was tapped for the board in July 2014. She is the co-founder of Ceeds of Peace, which she described on her Facebook page as “a nonprofit organization with the mission to bring peacebuilding skills to Hawaii’s parents, caregivers, teachers, and community members.”

• J. Kevin Poorman, a Wilmette businessman, took over several companies run by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when she stepped down to join Obama’s cabinet.

David Plouffe, a former White House senior adviser to Obama who stepped down in January 2013. Plouffe managed Obama’s 2008 campaign.

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