Obamas Are Footing the Bill to Redecorate the White House

The Obamas are redecorating the White House -- and they're paying for it themselves. CNN credits New York Magazine with getting this scoop first. Virtually every first lady makes changes to the White House. After all, it's going to be her family's home for the next four years.

It's a nod to our economic state that the Obamas will absorb the expense. However, they're not cofirming how much it'll be. The White House is tight-lipped; since the Obamas are refusing public donations as well as the $100,000 allotted for the task, the cost will remain confidential. NY Magazine cheekily dismisses that it'll be cheap, given the Hollywood designer they've commissioned: Michael S. Smith furnished Steven Spielberg and Rupert Murdoch's domiciles. Oh, yes. And Smith's also the visionary behind John Thain's notorious $87,783 rug. (Pres. Obama reportedly has no plans to replace the current rug in the Oval Office -- the $60,000 one that Laura Bush chose.)

The Obamas aren't the first presidential couple to make this kind of magnanimous gesture. Before the 20th century, all first couples footed the bill for entertaining costs in the White House. And Lou Henry Hoover paid out of pocket to redecorate Lincoln's study and a sitting room (she also paid for her own secretaries).

Then there's this story from the archives. Back in 1993, deputy White House counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr. left a suicide note suggesting that Hillary Clinton's redecoration plans for the White House "were being used against her." Foster alluded that the White House usher's office was surreptitiously racking up the decorating bill to discredit the first lady -- and her decorator, Kaki Hockersmith. Clinton denied the story; Hockersmith couldn't be reached for comment. That year, Congress offered the Clintons $50,000 to redecorate. They also refused the funds, and by June of 1993, the designer's estimate hovered around $337, 000.

For more on the first family, read: How Barack Obama Works How the First Lady Works How the U.S. President Works