The head of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation would be appointed by the governor and approved by the Illinois Senate under a bill approved Wednesday by the Senate Executive Committee.
The legislation takes aim at the private foundation that has come under fire for spending millions of dollars on a collection of Lincoln artifacts, including a hat that purportedly belonged to Lincoln but whose authenticity has never been proven.
Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said Senate Bill 481 is intended to “reset” the relationship between the foundation and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.
“There needs to be a better relationship between the library itself and the foundation, that is a creature of state law, to do what statute prescribes, which is maximize the activity of the foundation to support the library,” Manar said. “In my opinion, there is so much lacking in that relationship today. I think it’s time to re-evaluate it.”
Under Manar’s bill, the foundation would forward the names of several potential directors to the governor’s office. The governor would then select one of those names and submit it to the Senate for approval. The foundation director would serve a four-year term.
The bill would give legislators some control over the person selected to run the foundation, something they currently do not have. A lack of legislative oversight of the foundation has been an issue with some lawmakers since the private foundation last year asked the state for help repaying a loan it obtained to buy the Lincoln artifacts.
Manar said the foundation, although private, was created by state law and “it’s a different type of legal relationship.”
“It’s something I’ve struggled with. How does a foundation that claims to be completely private, that is referenced in state law directly in as relationship with a state agency, put us on the hook for decisions that they make?” Manar said.
Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, voted against the bill. He’s concerned about setting a precedent of the legislature getting involved with appointing people to lead private foundations.
“I’m not even sure where we have the authority to do that,” he said.
The foundation borrowed $23 million to buy a collection of Lincoln artifacts owned by Louise Taper, who was serving on the foundation board at the time. The collection, obtained in 2007, included a stovepipe hat that purportedly was once owned by Lincoln. The hat alone was valued at $6.5 million.
However, efforts to authenticate the hat have proven unsuccessful, leading to a recommendation that if it is displayed a disclaimer be included that says the hat may not be Lincoln’s. The ALPLM does not currently display the hat.
Meanwhile, the foundation still owes $9.7 million on the loan which comes due later this year. The foundation has said it may be forced to sell off parts of the collection if the state doesn’t provide assistance in repaying the loan.
Contact Doug Finke: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.
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March 13, 2019 at 05:59PM