- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

A congressman from Virginia is urging the National Park Service to investigate the nonprofit status of a company that plans to put a statue of former President Abraham Lincoln in Richmond, then sell replicas for $900.
"Will these statuettes represent history or the perpetuation of a fraud on unsuspecting donors around the United States?" Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., Virginia Republican, asked in a Jan. 15 letter to Fran Mainella, director of the National Park Service.
The public outcry started in December when the Richmond-based U.S. Historical Society announced its plans to put a life-size bronze statue of Lincoln and son Tad at the Richmond National Battlefield Park Civil War Visitor Center.
The statue will commemorate Lincoln's arrival in Richmond on April 5,1865 two days after Union troops captured the city and four days before the Confederates' surrender in the Civil War. The statue is scheduled to be unveiled on April 5.
Though the uproar initially focused on a Lincoln statue in a Southern state, the attention shifted to the financial dealings of the historical society and its chairman, Robert Kline.
Society executives said they would make 750 "official" bronze miniatures of the statue, which would sell for $875 each, not including the $25 fee for shipping and handling.
President Marty Moran could not be reached for comment but has told other news organizations that the society focuses on historical education and donates part of its proceeds to other nonprofit organizations.
Mr. Kline has told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "We have been thinking about doing this project a long time. Now we're going to do it."
He declined to tell that newspaper how much the project would cost.
Mr. Goode is questioning which organization is receiving the money for the statuettes.
"It appears that checks for these replicas are to be made payable to the United States Historical Society, an entity entirely different from the U.S. Historical Society," Mr. Goode wrote.
He also told The Washington Times yesterday: "The park service needs to look into this and see where all the money is going."
Mr. Goode suspects the U.S. Historical Society is being used to make a profit for the United States Historical Society, which claims in its literature to be a nonprofit organization.
"I don't think the National Park Service should be involved with helping a for-profit group raise money," he said yesterday. "If that's going to be the policy, I want them to help me raise money for projects that are more deserving."
Park Service Director Fran Mainella was unavailable for comment yesterday, but an agency spokesman said "the director has received Mr. Goode's letter and a response is being prepared."
"We take any inquiry from a member of Congress seriously and will give it its due attention," spokesman Al Mash said.
The U.S. Historical Society emerged in 1973 from what was then the U.S. Bicentennial Society and changed its name in 1975. It produces and sells miniature figures, dolls and other historical items, including a millennium statue for $2,250 and lithographs signed by aviator Chuck Yeager for $180.
The gross receipts of the U.S. Historical Society from 1996 to 1999 were $3.2 million, according to tax forms, which were obtained by The Times. The forms were filed under nonprofit status.


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