James L. (Skip) Rutherford is the William J. Clinton Professor and Dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School. Rutherford is past president of the nonprofit William J. Clinton Foundation, which oversaw construction of the Clinton Presidential Center. The original Foundation fundraising goal for the Library was $80-100 million dollars. The cost of the project eventually swelled to $165 million. Kane Webb in a Wall Street Journal story called Rutherford "the master builder Hemon to Bill Clinton's pharaoh Cheops."
Rutherford championed the location of the Library to potential donors by noting its proximity to convention hotel space, restaurants, shops. He is quoted as having taken great pride that Foundation efforts had "broken the barrier of the interstate [I-30] ... [and] led the effort to reclaim a blighted, neglected area and to turn it into a showplace." He has also been quoted as saying that having the main library of the Central Arkansas Library System only a few blocks away was "a major factor in determining the site for the Clinton Library in downtown Little Rock."
In response to Bill Clinton's frequent requests for information about the status of construction on the library complex, Rutherford had his staff install a ClintonCam webcam that was available 24/7. Rutherford also dreamed up the "Bill Clinton Collection," a CD full of Clinton's favorite music made available at Little Rock's Clinton Museum Store and on the store's Web site.
Rutherford became embroiled in the dispute with landowner Eugene Pfeifer III over the site of the Clinton presidential library complex beginning in November 2000. He also became involved in the court struggle over a proposed $1.2-3 million dollar economic-development tax break for the Clinton Library. The economic-development tax break became the preferred mechanism for city purchase of the land for the Clinton Center after a proposed burger tax measure was defeated.
Rutherford was subpoenaed in February 2001 by the Burton House Committee on Government Reform, which was investigating possible links between Foundation fund-raising efforts and the pardon of fugitive Marc Rich, wanted on charges of tax evasion. Rich's ex-wife Denise Rich donated $450,000 to the library foundation in three installments between July 1998 and May 2000. The Clinton Foundation refused to turn over the subpoenaed files, which would include records of donors and amounts. Rutherford argued that such records "have always been private."
Rutherford has been a close friend of the president for over thirty years. He is an executive vice president of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, one of the state's largest advertising firms. He has taught classes at Lyon College, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and the University of Central Arkansas. At Lyon College Rutherford's class studied political campaigns from the Orval Faubus era to 1993.
- Parker, Suzi, "Divulging Donors of Clinton Library: A Bad Precedent?" Christian Science Monitor 93 no. 63 (February 26, 2001): 1-2.
- Webb, Kane, "A Big Deal in Little Rock," Wall Street Journal (November 17, 2004): A16
- Harrod, Jay, and Kerry Kraus, "Capital Improvements: A Look at Little Rock's Past and Future Downtown Revitalization Efforts," (April 9, 2002).