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Wednesday, May 16, 2018 10:08 am

Brother, can you spare an Abe?

ALPLM foundation goes GoFundMe

How desperate is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, which owes nearly $10 million for Lincoln artifacts?

Check out the foundation’s GoFundMe.com campaign, set up after quiet efforts to secure a state bailout failed.

“Save Lincoln Artifacts! Donate NOW!”

In just one day, the foundation has raised $1,125 toward its $9.7 million goal, according to the GoFundMe page, and so it has just $9,698,875 left to collect before the note comes due in October of 2019.

This, the foundation says, is serious – you can practically hear refrains from the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” play while perusing the plea.

“Right now, the burgeoning threat that items which represent him to his core – his presidential seal, stovepipe hat, locks of his hair, gloves he carried with him the night of the assassination, stained with the very blood he spilled that night that this nation might have a new birth of freedom, are ever closer to the auction block,” the foundation writes in its plea. “When will those who revere Lincoln, but who’ve yet to contribute in his behalf, step up? The many who have contributed wonder and wait, even as they contribute once again. But where are those who haven’t? All of us today, who, because of Lincoln, experience a free and just society, must rise up, contribute and ensure justice for him.”

Asked whether the foundation consulted with museum officials or any other state entity before posting the online plea, Rene Brethorst, foundation chief operating officer, didn’t directly answer. “It is our mission to fundraise for the ALPLM, we embark on campaigns regularly to benefit the ALPLM,” Brethorst wrote in an email.

The foundation on May 10 disclosed via a written statement that behind-the-scenes pleas for a state bailout have failed. The governor’s office has said that Gov. Bruce Rauner is willing to listen.

“We are certainly interested in working with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation as they work through their options,” Patty Schuh, Rauner spokeswoman, told the Chicago Tribune. “We are listening to their business plan.”

The governor’s office has not responded to inquiries from Illinois Times about the money crunch.

Tony Leone, a former board member of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency that once ran the museum, said that the state should demand a public audit showing exactly how much money the foundation has taken in, where it has come from and how it has been spent.

“You need to review salaries,” said Leone, a longtime critic of the foundation. “You need to review staff positions – they have quite a few people. They’ve had wonderful galas with world-class public figures. … There’s just no accountability.”

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said that he wants to see artifacts stay in Springfield, but he said that he also wants to see a business plan from the foundation.

“I’m not saying anything untoward has been done with the Abraham Lincoln foundation,” Butler said. “At the end of the day, if you’re coming to the General Assembly to ask for funding, I want to see what the plan is.”

Butler said that he’s been looking through the foundation’s IRS filings that show how much the group has collected and how much it has spent, but he said such files don’t provide sufficient detail. An audit, he said, should be considered.

“There’s a lot that you don’t see in (IRS filings) that might come out in an audit,” Butler said. “I think it’s something we at least need to have a discussion about.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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