Washington, D.C.'s finances may be hopelessly dysfunctional, but at least someone in the city knows how to manage their money. We're talking about David Rubenstein, who seems to be single-handedly funding the ongoing cultural well-being of our nation.
Rubenstein recently pledged $5.4 million for the renovation of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery, adding to a very impressive list of gifts to our nation's museums and cultural institutions. For example, back in 2012, he cut a $7.5 million check to help restore the Washington Monument. Last year, he spent almost twice as much on the Bay Psalm Book from 1640, which he plans to lend to libraries across the country. And he gave the National Archives copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation, along with millions of dollars to expand the gallery and visitor's center.
Rubenstein, as you may know, is the billionaire philanthropist and co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm. As we note in our Wall Street Donor profile, Rubenstein, who is worth about $3 billion, primarily funds education, health care research, and national museums and monuments. He calls this latter form of giving "patriotic capitalism." And with the entire country bracing for the next fiscal crisis (it seems inevitable, doesn't it?) his generosity is both refreshing and very much needed.
Rubenstein's gift to the Smithsonian completes the private fundraising goal for the capital renovation of the Renwick Gallery, which was the first purpose-built art museum in American when completed back in 1859. The renovation project, a 50/50 public-private partnership totalling $30 million, calls for a completely renewed infrastructure and enhanced historic features that will make it a "21st-century destination attraction."
Dubbed the "American Louvre," the gallery "symbolized the nation's aspirations in the cultural arena, the hallmark of every great civilization." In fact, it's not a stretch to argue that Rubenstein, like most Americans, is quite fond of symbolism and its ability to unite Americans. And don't just take our word for it. Almost all of Rubenstein's projects — the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Washington Monument, the Renwick Gallery — are dripping with the kind of patriotic symbolism that speaks to our collective history. Thankfully, someone was paying attention in high school civics class.
And while each of these projects or documents resides in Washington, D.C., Rubenstein doesn't discriminate based on location. When pressed to choose one favored institution that he could give all his money to, Rubenstein said, "I can't just pick one because I like organizations that have been helpful to me in my life or are part of my life in Washington D.C."