House Tourism Hears Testimony of Concerns Over Operations at the Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation

From the State Capitol: The House Tourism Cmte hears testimony concerning problems which have arisen in the separate operations of the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and its Foundation — which has its own Executive Director and Board. Questions arose from some critics of the Foundation’s priorities, and whether it is being operated for the support of the Library and Museum.

One critic, Tony Leone, is a former Board member of the Foundation, who raises questions about where the Foundation’s money is going, why the Foundation’s Executive Director is paid a salary that reportedly tops $250,000 annual — more than the pay of the Governor, or of Alan Lowe, Executive Director of the Library and Museum.

And then there are the questions of the spending by the Foundation for a collection of Lincoln items, which cost approximately $23 Million. A stove-pipe hat that was purchased as part of that collection, was initially valued at $6.5 Million, with the claim that it had been worn by Lincoln. Now there are serious questions about its connection to Lincoln.

Further, the Foundation still owes some $9.2 Million on the purchase, and if the total remaining sum is not paid off by October 2019, THE ENTIRE COLLECTION will be foreclosed upon by the bank which lent the money.

Mr Leone and some lawmakers question how these decisions were made, who is checking to verify that such expensive purchases are being made without conflicts of interest involved — as the purchase was made from a Foundation board member.  He’s proposing the legislature give the State Auditor-General the authority to audit the books of organizations that received state support as part of their funding, even though they are structured as a private concern.

But some question whether the Auditor-General would have the Constitutional right to do that.  Then there is the question of resources.  The State Auditor in Pennsylvania has such authority, but has a staff of over 450 people, and a budget about 10 times that of the Illinois Auditor-General, who now conducts audits of only those entities which are directly a part of state governement.

And now, the Foundation is seeking to have the state pay the remaining $9.2 million on the loan, as they have serious doubts of their ability to raise those funds in the 11 months remaining before the collection would be foreclosed upon.

The Foundation director says if the state were to provide the funds to ensure the loan is paid off by October 2019, then the state would get ownership of the collection, though the collection would remain in the hands of the Lincoln Library and Museum, as part of their permanent collection, to be displayed to the public.