Tuesday, March 31, 2009

White House DIY

New York Magazine this week reported that Barack and Michelle Obama have decided not to use taxpayers' money to renovate the White House family living quarters. Traditionally new presidents are allotted $100,000 per term by Congress to overhaul the White House personal quarters and the Oval Office. Camille Johnston, director of communications for the First Lady has said that “[they] are not using public funds or accepting donations of goods for redecorating their private quarters.” Also, the Obamas are not using White House Historical Association (a private charity dedicated to maintaining the White House) funds.

It's not clear whether the Obamas will spend more or less than the traditional $100,000 from their private funds, but given Michael S. Smith's past projects it's quite possible that the budget could far exceed $100,000. Smith's client list includes Rupert Murdoch, Steven Spielberg, and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain—for whom he procured that infamous $87,783 rug while Merrill was being acquired by Bank of America under the guidance of Federal Officials. We'll likely never know the budget as a result of the Obamas’ decision to absorb the cost. While not in the same league as Murdoch, Spielberg, or Thain, the Obama's have been quite comfortable the last few years; the couple reported $4.2 million in household income on their 2007 tax returns.

This won't be the President's first White House project, President Obama has already surprised his daughters with a swing set outside the Oval office and Michelle has been working with White House staff on a vegetable and herb garden on the grounds.

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