Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » *** UPDATED x1 *** ALPLM explains its claims about Lincoln presidential library foundation
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*** UPDATED x1 *** ALPLM explains its claims about Lincoln presidential library foundation

Monday, Apr 19, 2021

* Dean Olsen at the State Journal-Register about bickering between the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the foundation which shares a name and which is now persona non grata

[Melissa Coultas, ALPLM acting executive director] said the [Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation] has a “parasitic” relationship with the ALPLM, adding that the ALPLM has “faced delay or outright rejection from the foundation when we’ve requested simple information on fundraising efforts and basic finances that purport to support the ALPLM. … I have never experienced anything close to this level of stonewalling and hostility.”

When comparing the foundation’s reported income to what ALPLM receives, Coultas said, “the amount is just over 7 cents on every dollar — a mere 7%.

“We concede some foundation spending, such as payment on its Taper Collection debt, indirectly benefits the ALPLM. But the details on that are hazy — and other spending is a complete mystery to us,” Coultas said.

On the other side, foundation CEO Mast said the ALPLM has issued “misleading narratives that aren’t supported by the facts.” She said the foundation has raised $42 million to benefit the ALPLM since the site’s inception, with half going toward paying for the Taper Collection.

And in the past year, about 70 cents out of every dollar raised or earned by the foundation — not 7 cents — was “put toward ALPLM expenses,” Mast said. She added that the foundation has “robust practices” to promote financial accountability as a nonprofit and posts financial documents that it files with the IRS on its website.

OK, I looked at the most recent 990 form and saw that the foundation raised $2.680 million between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.

Of that, the foundation spent $823K on salaries and benefits, $407K on interest payments, $90K on office expenses, $65K on lobbying expenses and $61K for “other” expenses, among other things.

In support of the library, the foundation lists $502.5K in direct support, $240.5K for grant expenses, $217K for special events and $25.6K for investment expenses and $24K for investment expenses.

So, that’s neither 70 percent nor 7 percent.

* I reached out to ALPLM spokesperson Chris Wills…

When we talk about seven cents on the dollar, we are examining the Foundation’s claim that it provides about $2 million a year to the ALPLM. Most people hearing that would assume it means giving the ALPLM $2 million to spend on our needs — exhibits, equipment, marketing, etc. That may be the amount that flows through the Foundation’s accounts, but it is wrong to think they give us that amount to spend. In fact, if you look at their wording, the Foundation says the money merely “supported expenses for ALPLM.”

In the attached document, look at the section labeled “Foundation Average Expenditures by Function FY18-20.” That is our best estimate of how the Foundation spends its money.

First, 40 percent of that money goes to the Foundation’s own payroll. Another big chunk, about 19%, goes to interest on the Foundation’s debts. About 12 percent is grant money that comes from other institutions (and ALPLM staff, not the Foundation, are often the ones writing the grant requests and other administrative work). Another 12 percent goes to “special events” which we presume are costs associated with the Foundation’s fundraising events. The Foundation will not explain to us how that money is raised or where it goes. There are other spending categories we don’t fully understand. The amount we can verify that they actually raise and then make available to the ALPLM is about 7.5 percent of their claim.

So of the $2 million they claim, only about 7 cents of every dollar is actually the cash support most people would envision when talking about the Foundation assisting the ALPLM. As we said in the hearing, we think the ALPLM does benefit from some of the other Foundation spending. If they had met with us or even answered our written questions, we might have a clearer idea of the total impact.

I should also note that we put together the attached document because we kept getting questions from our board and from the administration about how the Foundation did or didn’t assist the ALPLM. We could not provide concrete answers from the Foundation, so we did our best to come up with an overview on our own. The Foundation says its financial picture is discussed at meetings that include ALPLM representatives. What they don’t mention is that the ALPLM representatives are NOT given copies of the financial reports their board discusses.

The attachment is here.

*** UPDATE *** Press release…

Governor JB Pritzker today announced Gary Johnson will be the new Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Board (ALPLM). Johnson was appointed to the ALPLM Board of Directors in September 2019 after serving as President of the Chicago History Museum for 15 years. He previously spent 28 years as a lawyer and partner in international law at Mayer Brown and Jones Day.

“The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is a treasured institution that pays homage to not only the country’s first president from Illinois but also our great state’s incredible history,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I am pleased to announce Gary Johnson will serve as Chair of the Museum’s Board, bringing years of prior, award-winning service with him. I am confident he will excel in the role and work to ensure the ALPLM remains a top destination for Illinoisans and visitors alike.”

Under Johnson’s leadership, the Chicago History Museum received the National Medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest award for museums and libraries. He also served for 10 years as President of Museums in the Park. Additionally, he worked as Vice Chair on the Special Commission on the Administration of Justice in Cook County.

“It is an honor to become the chair of this board. This is an important time for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum,” said Gary Johnson. “It has accomplished so much for both Springfield and the nation. At the time of its anniversary, we look ahead to making it become even more relevant in our national dialogues.”

Gary Johnson is a member of the American Law Institute and a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Illinois State Bar Association Foundation, and he served as president of the Chicago Council of Lawyers. Johnson earned his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, his Master of Arts from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and his Bachelor of Arts from Yale College. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Lake Forest College.

Johnson’s appointment to ALPLM Board Chair is effective immediately.

Johnson replaces Ray LaHood.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Downstate - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 2:26 pm:

    “What they don’t mention is that the ALPLM representatives are NOT given copies of the financial reports their board discusses.”

    No reason to not share financial info, unless there is something to hide.

  2. - Sir Reel - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 3:13 pm:

    I’m surprised the foundation was able to raise $2.7 million last FY, given all the negative news associated with it in recent years.

  3. - Candy Dogood - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 3:43 pm:

    I would not be at all shocked if the Foundation itself existed as some kind of profit making scheme for the politically connected. It was created in Springfield, after all.

    Their staff directory list six people. I presume that 800,000 isn’t being directed at just six people?

    It sounds like the foundation exists to advance itself and is not interested in advancing or serving the interests of the museum, and that whole “spent millions of dollars on not Abraham Lincoln’s hat” thing will never pass the smell test.

  4. - SpiDem - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 3:55 pm:

    It’s time for the state to turn control over this rolling train wreck to the State Librarian — the Secretary of State. Then, you house the ALPLM, State Historical Library, State Library, and the State Archives in one place, and its in an office where the Executive Branch elected official has the room on their plate to deal with and fix the insanity.

  5. - NIU Grad - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 4:00 pm:

    “I should also note that we put together the attached document because we kept getting questions from our board and from the administration about how the Foundation did or didn’t assist the ALPLM”

    My translation: “We’ve known this was a mess for years and didn’t want to deal with the public mess that you’re seeing now until we absolutely had to.”

  6. - Annonin' - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 4:07 pm:

    Oh that’s right LaHood was dumped after word of his plea and fine for lying to the FBI and filing phony ethics forms was exposed by the Feds. Still waiting on receipts for fine payment and repayment of the “loan”

  7. - Mediator needed - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 4:23 pm:

    Perhaps Mr. Johnson will agree to mediation and then implement the law creating the working group that LaHood refused to activate and current leadership thought was unnecessary. It’s amazing that museum administrators can just say no to committing to mediation after ignoring a unanimously supported bill that was passed to bring peace to the two groups. Perhaps once we see who will manage their new foundation we will know why they worked so hard to destroy this one.

  8. - Thomas Paine - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 4:28 pm:

    Part IX of their tax return clearly states how their total expenses are allocated, and they seem to be following standard accounting practices.

    According to Line 25, of their $2.5M operating budget in 2020, $1.75M was spent on program services. That does not mean that they cut a $1.75M check to the library, and in fact about $400K went to pay off debt for the Tapper purchase, about &360K was for foundation staff (9). They did not report compensation of key staff on latest return which is a no-no. Executive Directors hate it but you have to tell the world that Carla makes over $250K a year.

  9. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 6:37 pm:

    New director now who makes $280K

  10. - Keyrock - Monday, Apr 19, 21 @ 9:29 pm:

    Gary Johnson is the best person for the role. What an excellent selection.

  11. - Mustard Only - Tuesday, Apr 20, 21 @ 6:03 am:

    Talk about the tail wagging the dog. Call me when the legislature takes the Dept of Ag to task for refusing to allow Vose to be the exclusive, no-questions-asked corn dog vendor at the State Fair.

  12. - susiespringfield - Wednesday, Apr 21, 21 @ 7:46 am:

    “In support of the library, the foundation lists $502.5K in direct support…”
    This is malarkey. The $502.5 in direct support is simply a pass-thru of cafe and giftshop revenue for which they hold a paper contract in a file and collect a monthly check. The Foundation does nothing to raise these funds. Nothing.

  13. - Lost In Chicago - Wednesday, Apr 21, 21 @ 10:04 am:

    Why is this being done now as opposed to waiting for the new ED to begin her job? Is this about job security for museum staffers?

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