- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

The National Park Service has ordered a group selling replica statues of Abraham Lincoln to stop using the federal agency's name to solicit funds, after concluding an investigation prompted by a congressman's request.
"Effective immediately, the use of the name of the National Park Service in solicitation for funds for statue miniatures and in all promotional material must cease," wrote Sandy Rives, Virginia director of the Park Service in a Feb. 4 letter to U.S. Historical Society Chairman Robert H. Kline.
Mr. Rives, who investigated the Historical Society for much of February, said he is satisfied that charges of possible fraud against the society appear to be without grounds. The society plans to donate a life-size statue of Lincoln and his son, Tad, to the Park Service and place it in the Richmond National Battlefield Park on April 5.
"We are going to accept the statue, and the agreement we had was that [the U.S. Historical Society] would not convey any impression that the Park Service was selling the miniatures," said Mr. Rives yesterday.
Mr. Rives said he spent most of February meeting with the historical society's chairman, lawyers and accountants at the request of Park Service Director Fran Mainella.
On Jan. 15, Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., Virginia Republican, asked Miss Mainella to investigate the matter and sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of the Interior J. Steven Griles, reiterating his request that they investigate the society.
Mr. Goode was concerned that the Historical Society may have misrepresented itself as a nonprofit organization in mailing 6,000 solicitations for people to buy the solid bronze statuettes at $875 each. The statuettes, according to Historical Society literature, were being sold to pay for the production and installation of the statue.
The Historical Society's letter advertises itself as the United States Historical Society, not the U.S. Historical Society. But the Virginia State Corporation Commission listed the United States Historical Society as a fictitious name belonging to a for-profit company named FKAO Inc., which Mr. Kline had previously owned for more than 20 years.
In addition, the U.S. Historical Society was not registered with the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs, and was violating state law by soliciting contributions, The Washington Times learned in January.
"Will these statuettes represent history or the perpetuation of a fraud on unsuspecting donors around the United States?" wrote Mr. Goode in his January letter to Miss Mainella.
The statue is intended to commemorate Lincoln's arrival in Richmond on April 5, 1865 two days after Union troops captured the city and four days before Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House.
On Jan. 27, an attorney for the U.S. Historical Society denied any wrongdoing or fraud on the part of the society, and said that the records at the Corporation Commission were simply outdated.
On Jan. 30, Mr. Rives met with Mr. Kline and two other Park Service officials at the headquarters of the Richmond National Battlefield Park, where Mr. Kline declined to answer questions about the Lincoln statue funds without an attorney present, according to documents obtained by The Times.
Mr. Rives then sent Mr. Kline a letter on Feb. 4 asking for clarification of the two different names, copies of the society's latest tax forms and audit statement, and a written assurance that proceeds from statuette sales would go to the statue, associated costs or other nonprofit causes.
Mr. Rives also requested written assurance that the society would conduct a "full and open accounting of all income and expenses related to the project, with copies made available to the NPS and the public." Finally, he instructed the society to remove the name of the Park Service from all solicitations or promotional materials.
Mr. Kline responded the next day in a five-page letter in which he attempted to explain the reason the organization had two names, denied any wrongdoing, and promised that any income from the statuettes would go toward the statue project or other nonprofit causes.
The Historical Society also sent out 6,000 notices to those they originally solicited, correcting themselves for saying that the Park Service had commissioned the statue and clarifying that none of the proceeds would go to the Park Service.
Mr. Kline did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday, but Mr. Rives said that the U.S. Historical Society has told him the cost of the project is around $250,000. If only a fourth of those the society solicited, or 1,500 people, bought a statuette, the society would gross $1.3 million.
Mr. Rives acknowledged that opposition to the U.S. Historical Society has been driven largely by an undercurrent of pro-Confederacy sentiment of those who resent the thought of a Lincoln likeness in the former capital of the Confederacy.
There were more than 1,100 complaints to Richmond National Battlefield Park about the statue, Mr. Rives said. A recent online poll conducted by the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot newspaper found that 66 percent of 4,181 respondents do not think the statue belongs in Richmond.

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