Where is Obama's Nobel Prize money? 

There's some buzz going around the net over the question of what President Obama has done with the $1.4 million he won as part of the Nobel Peace Prize. Well before Obama accepted the award, the White House announced he would give the money to charity. Yet it's been two months since the president went to Oslo, and there's no word of him giving it away.

Some commentators have speculated that Obama is hanging on to it himself. But the White House says the president hasn't yet received the money, so it follows that he hasn't yet given it away. "I know they continue to talk about it," spokesman Robert Gibbs said at a January 19 briefing. "I think he has not received any money yet. But as soon as they -- as he makes those donations, we will let you guys know."

The situation seems a little odd. If you win the Nobel Prize, don't they just give you the money? Why doesn't Obama have it yet? It turns out there's a reason.

"He hasn't received it because they haven't asked to have it transferred," says Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. "It is up to the laureate to decide. My understanding is that they are looking into certain legal questions, and once those legal questions are settled, it will be done…once they ask for it, the money will be transferred immediately."

Prize winners can have the money without delay, but Lundestad says it is not unheard of for a laureate to leave the cash with the Nobel Foundation for some period of time after winning. "The most difficult cases are with laureates who are in prison," he says. And there is no time limit for Obama to receive the money. So for the moment, the money remains deposited with the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm. "The money is in the bank," Lundestad says. "We are leaving this entirely to the White House."

To some in the White House, and to many of the president's supporters, the Nobel was almost an embarrassment, the symbol of the too-much-praise that has been heaped on Obama in the last couple of years. In an effort to de-emphasize the whole thing, Obama made short work of his trip to Oslo to receive the award. And now, it appears he's in no hurry to deal with the money he won, either.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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