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Despite ‘five-alarm fire’ over potential auction of Lincoln artifacts quieting, lawmakers seek audit of private foundation

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Thursday, April 11, 2019  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop

Historic Preservation, historic sites (50) , Libraries/literacy (80c) Butler, Tim--State House, 87 , Manar, Andy--State Senate, 48
Concerns have quieted over artifacts connected to Abraham Lincoln possibly going to auction if millions of dollars aren’t raised for a private foundation, a couple of state lawmakers say.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation is a private entity created by state statute and meant to support the public museum, which houses valuable artifacts connected to Lincoln and other figures with Illinois connections. The private foundation reportedly owes $9 million for the artifacts and the loan comes due later this year.

Last year, the private foundation was lobbying state lawmakers for a taxpayer bailout to pay off the loan.

“This time last year, that was a five-alarm fire and literally I haven’t heard about the need to do that in months,” state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said. “So it went from a five-alarm fire to kind of a hands-off approach.”

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, echoed that.

“There was a lot of discussion from the foundation last fall about going to the auction house and setting that up,” Butler said. “I haven’t heard anything about that recently so I don’t know what their plans are for that.”

Messages to the foundation were not returned.

Regardless, Manar is looking to adopt Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman’s proposal to have the state’s auditor general audit the contracts the foundation has with the public library and museum operations.

“It would better inform both the governor’s office and the legislature to help make good decisions about budget and policy and how the two entities interact with each other,” Manar said.

Butler supports Manar’s push to require the audit.

“I understand they’re a private foundation, but they’re there for a public purpose,” Butler said.

Manar’s measure would also let the governor appoint and senate approve a director for the foundation board. That measure would have the foundation board provide a list of names to the governor to nominate.

One artifact called into question is a stovepipe hat thought to belong to Lincoln worth $6 million, but DNA testing came back inconclusive, potentially diminishing the hat’s value.