February 17, 2018

Intrigue Grows Over Fate of Bush Presidential Library

By LJ Staff

By any measure, George W. Bush’s presidency has been eventful, and following that script his post-presidency seems off to an eventful start with his presidential library. According to a New York Daily News exclusive Bush is seeking a record $500 million to build his library at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. The Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, by comparison, cost $165 million. Citing "Bush sources with direct knowledge of library plans" the Daily News reported that SMU and Bush are seeking "megadonations" of as much as $20 million from private donors who can by law remain anonymous. SMU, however, has yet to win the official nod from the Bush administration – an announcement the administration was first expected to make public in the fall of 2005 before First Lady Laura Bush said it would be 2007. The Daily News, meanwhile, has maintained since March 2005 that the library was a done deal and would go to SMU, where the First Lady is an alumna and sits on the board of trustees. Officially, however, the library competition still has three suitors, including Baylor University in Waco and the University of Dallas.

Adding to the intrigue is a legal squabble between Dallas resident Gary Vodicka and SMU over an apartment complex bordering the campus. Vodicka has charged the university with improperly forcing residents out of the complex so they could use the property for the library plan. SMU maintains that it owned most of the units and legally purchased the property. The case was set to be heard in early November until Vodicka filed a last-minute motion to move the case from a state court to a federal one, saying the state judge was an SMU alumnus and potentially biased. SMU has opposed the effort. Also, in August, it was revealed that SMU had already received a "megadonation" in connection with the library. The $35 million donation from Dallas businessman Ray Hunt went unannounced until revealed in court filings this summer. According to the Dallas Morning News, the gift was used to purchase a shopping center that could become the library site.