- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

A project to build a federal memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. is sinking as relatives of the civil rights leader refuse to give permission to use the King name.
The feud has caused some donors to hold back money that was previously promised to the promoters of the plan, delivering a blow to hopes that the project will raise the needed $100 million by the November 2003 deadline.
"I don't know that anyone would consider contributing to the effort until the licensing is settled," said Bill Noack, a spokesman for General Motors, which had made a verbal agreement in 1999 to provide $10 million to the memorial effort.
He stressed that the donation by General Motors was initially floated by a member of the automaker's corporate relations staff, "but it is not a commitment."
Designer Tommy Hilfiger pledged $5 million when the project was announced in 1999, but has not given any substantial money because of the licensing conflict.
"Once they are organized and ready to go, then we'll be ready to go," said Guy Vickers, a spokesman for Tommy Hilfiger. "But we're just a partner and have nothing to do with this other stuff."
Sources say that the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, which was formed in 1999, may be forced to ask Congress for an extension of the deadline.
But foundation President Harry Johnson dismissed the idea. "They gave us enough time to build the memorial and that is what we intend to do," he said.
Earlier this year, foundation members agreed to a tentative licensing fee of $600,000 with representatives from the King Center, which was founded in 1969 by relatives of Mr. King. It holds the rights to Mr. King's name.
But the fee is still being negotiated. The drawing power of the memorial plays a role in determining the licensing cost, said the director of the King Center, Tricia Harris. Offers have ranged from a flat fee to a percentage of money raised, sources say.
"At this point, we have not reached a resolution," Miss Harris said. "What we have is [a project] with the best intentions but the memorial will cost a substantial sum of money, and we are trying to look at the full scope of what that will entail for us."
"The challenge here is determining what a nonprofit permission fee is," she said. "What corporate sponsors would expect there is not a step-by-step manual on how to put this together when you are dealing with a legacy such as Dr. King's."
She added that while the negotiations have been difficult for both sides, "I cannot say that the [projects] delay is entirely because of our conversations."
Mr. Johnson, however, maintained that the effort is simply in the "middle of a quiet phase."
"We are trying to get funds in line before going public," said Mr. Johnson, a Houston attorney. "But the King Center is on board. Everything is fine."
He added that Alpha Phi Alpha, which has held its own internal fund-raiser for the project, "would not provide any money."
But when the project was announced, then-fraternity president John Carter said that Alpha Phi Alpha had contributed $1 million in seed money. And sources say that, even now, Alpha Phi Alpha will play a larger role in getting the project completed than the foundation.
Mr. Johnson also dismissed insiders' claims that the fraternity would provide the licensing money when an agreement with the King Center is reached.
The memorial was authorized by legislation signed by President Clinton in November 1996, 13 years after the idea was first proposed by members of the fraternity, of which Mr. King was a member.
The authorization provided seven years for a fund-raising campaign, to be headed by the fraternity and the foundation that was created specifically for managing project funds. A provision of the authorization stipulated that no federal funds can be used.
Four acres of prime real estate on the National Mall between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials have been set aside for the memorial. An architect, ROMA Design Group of San Francisco, has been selected to build the project. General Motors has promised to send a financial official to help the foundation handle the project's finances. The foundation occupies a spacious third-floor office in the National Building Museum.
But things are moving slowly.
A campaign director for fund raising at the foundation, Nancy Racette, was brought on board this week. She said she did not know how much money had been raised so far.
The corporate money that foundation leaders are relying on has been trickling in. General Motors provided $750,000 for "setup activities," Mr. Noack said.
Records show that a portion of that at least one-third went to pay for the September 2000 ceremony announcing the winner of the memorial design competition. Those costs included limos, air fare for dignitaries and hotel bills.
But there may be no more money from corporate sources, at least until the licensing squabble is settled.

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