- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

The U.S. Historical Society paid $23,000 to settle a claim raised by the Virginia attorney general that the group violated state consumer protection and charitable solicitation laws when it sold replicas of Richmond’s statue of Abraham Lincoln.

The society, which sells historical collectibles, agreed to the settlement last week. The replicas sold at $875 each and went toward financing the Lincoln statue, which was erected in Richmond in the spring of 2003.

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, said the office claimed the society had incorrectly told clients that the National Park Service was involved in the sale of the replicas and that no public money had been used for the statue.

The city of Richmond spent $45,000 to prepare the site for the statue, located in the Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor Center at the former Tredegar Iron Works, an important supplier of munitions to the Confederate Army.

Mr. Murtaugh said the settlement money will be divided three ways.

The attorney general’s office will get $4,200 to cover attorneys’ fees. Part of the money also will go toward consumer education projects within the office. The state’s literary fund will receive $10,000.

In addition, $100 will go to each of the 88 persons who bought mail-order Renoir Umbrella Dolls, based on the Renoir painting “The Umbrellas,” from the society under false pretenses. The society told buyers that they were selling the dolls in cooperation with the “International Gallery of Art,” a corporate entity the society created, Mr. Murtaugh said.

Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) alerted the attorney general’s office to the group’s sales last year, and the office began an investigation.

After the settlement, the U.S. Historical Society said lawyers had been “prepared to defend” each claim, but that the settlement was in each party’s best interest to avoid costly litigation.

The society also noted that the statue project did not result in any profits, saying sales resulted in a loss of $125,000. The society said it is “committed to sound, legal and ethical practices as we go forward from here.”

SCV is demanding that the Lincoln statue be immediately removed from the city, which was the capital of the Confederacy. Erected in April 2003, the statue was designed to honor the former president’s visit to Richmond in April 1865.

Last year, SCV spokesman Brag Bowling said the statue was a “slap in the face of brave men and women who went through four years of unbelievable hell fighting an invasion of Virginia led by President Lincoln.”

Last week, Mr. Bowling said failing to remove the statue “would reward both organizations for their participation in this deceptive fund raising.”

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