- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

An organization selling replicas of an Abraham Lincoln statue it intends to install in Richmond is operating outside state law, the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs said yesterday.
The nonprofit U.S. Historical Society has been selling replicas of the statue since December, but it was doing so without being registered with the Office of Consumer Affairs.
"It is a violation of law to solicit contributions in Virginia without being properly registered with our office," said Michael Wright, manager of regulatory programs for the Office of Consumer Affairs.
"Solicitation," he said, "includes any request for a contribution that is represented as being for a charitable purpose."
Virginia law provides for both civil and criminal penalties for such an offense, but Mr. Wright said the Office of Consumer Affairs usually applies civil penalties first. The criminal penalty for the misdemeanor could be a fine of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail.
Mr. Wright said his office has requested that the organization comply with the law or indicate why it believes the law is not applicable.
He said the U.S. Historical Society had been registered with the Office of Consumer Affairs until 2001, when the group wrote a letter to Consumer Affairs stating it had not solicited any contributions that year and would not renew its registration because it did not intend to solicit funds in the future.
Mr. Wright said he presumed that the U.S. Historical Society would argue over the definition of solicitation, but the term "we do believe, is applicable to the sale of these statues."
The statuettes are replicas of a life-size Lincoln statue that the U.S. Historical Society plans to install in Richmond in April. The statue of Lincoln and his son, Tad, would commemorate Lincoln's arrival in Richmond on April 5,1865, two days after Union troops captured the city.
The statue and the U.S. Historical Society have been at the center of controversy since the plan was announced in late December.
First there was an uproar in Richmond from groups who opposed a tribute to Lincoln in the capital of the Confederacy and its placement on the Richmond National Battlefield Park Civil War Visitor Center.
It was then suspected that the U.S. Historical Society, a nonprofit organization, was selling the statuettes under a different name, the United States Historical Society, which according to records at the Virginia Corporation Commission belongs to a for-profit corporation in Richmond named FKAO Inc.
Chris Malone, an attorney representing the U.S. Historical Society, said his organization had not transferred any money or sales to the United States Historical Society, which is not a company or organization and exists in name only.
Moreover, he said no funds had gone to FKAO Inc., which owns the name United States Historical Society.
He said FKAO had notified him that it was giving up ownership of the name United States Historical Society, and that the Corporation Commission would be notified.
The U.S. Historical Society is offering the replicas for $875 each, plus $25 shipping and handling. It said revenue from statuette sales would go toward the cost of installing the statue.
Society Chairman Robert H. Kline issued a statement this week saying the cost of the statue project would be $255,365, and that the organization has collected less than $40,000 so far from sales of the statuettes.
He said any money collected beyond the cost of the statue would go toward operating costs or be donated to other nonprofits.
U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., Virginia Republican, wrote a letter to the National Park Service Jan. 15 asking it to investigate whether it should be helping the U.S. Historical Society solicit sales of the statuettes.
Officials at the Department of the Interior, which has oversight of the Park Service, are looking into the matter and preparing a response, a spokesman for Mr. Goode said yesterday.
FKAO Inc. does not have a listed phone number, and Mr. Malone did not return telephone calls regarding why the society is not on file with the Office of Consumer Affairs.

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