Real or Fake? Hat at center of Lincoln controversy spurs need for legislative action

State Rep. Jeanne Ives
September 19, 2018

A few weeks ago I highlighted the shocking lack of transparency taking place at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation (ALPLF).

Now, Dave McKinney with WBEZ in Chicago is reporting on two separate findings – including an FBI analysis – that there is insufficient evidence that the stovepipe hat in the Museum’s collection purported to be Abraham Lincoln’s actually belonged to him. The hat in question cost the ALPLF $6.5 million to acquire back in 2007. This is critical, because the ALPLF has already auctioned off artifacts in the museum’s collection (and are considering auctioning off more) to help pay off their massive debt – debt incurred from their own negligence and lack of accountability. 

This embarrassing mismanagement is important to every Illinois taxpayer, because taxpayer dollars go to help fund the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. This year alone, the FY19 state budget allocates $11 million to operate it. Here’s the critical point -- the ALPLF, a nonprofit that operates independently of the museum, siphons off museum bookstore profits and rental fees and sells unlimited admission with membership, but doesn't completely share that with the taxpayer-supported museum.

More things to consider – the ALPLF’s executive director makes a salary of $240,000. Total compensation for the few ALPLF employees that don't run anything in the museum is over $800,000. In a conflict of interest, the ALPLF indebted themselves by making a loan agreement with a bank which two members of their board were affiliated with.  A lot of unanswered questions remain about how the ALPLF has managed their funds and how they intend to pay off their debt.

I have filed legislation, House Bill 5958, calling for the ALPLF to be subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act laws. Enacting my proposal would make all the ALPLF’s financial records and meetings public information. This should be common sense.

I have also spoken with the chairman of the appropriate House Committee, and she has agreed to my request that we hold public hearings in October to investigate the actions of the ALPLF. We can and should work together on a bipartisan basis to get to the bottom of this matter and enact my bill into law in order to provide Illinois taxpayers with the transparency and accountability they deserve.

I will keep you posted.


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