Lincoln statue group loses tax status

Historical Society taken off IRS list of tax-exempt groups
Friday, Aug 24, 2007

The company that donated the bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln in Richmond has
lost its tax-exempt status.

The United States Historical Society was removed this week from the Internal
Revenue Service’s list of organizations eligible to receive tax-free contributions.
An IRS spokesman said he could not disclose details.

Martin J. Moran, president of the Historical Society, also declined to discuss
specifics or say whether its troubles related to controversy around the Lincoln
statue at Tredegar Iron Works.

"It’s done, and it’s over," he said. "We are particularly proud
of [the statue]. It’s one of the biggest and best undertakings the society has
ever done."

Organizations can qualify as tax-exempt if they exist for religious, charitable,
educational or other certain purposes. Nonprofits face limits on their activities,
including a prohibition from campaigning for or against political candidates.

The Historical Society, based in Chesterfield County, plans to operate as a
for-profit company. It works with museums and other institutions to market historical
collectibles, such as statues, dolls and plates.

Four years ago, the Historical Society donated the bronze statue of Lincoln
and his son, Tad, to the National Park Service as a symbol of unity and reconciliation.
It was dedicated on April 5, 2003, to mark Lincoln’s visit to the burned-out
Confederate capital in 1865.

The statue was lauded by city leaders and others in the community but strongly
criticized by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans as an affront to Southern

Some members of the Confederate group, as well as U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode
Jr., R-5th, questioned whether the Historical Society was a legitimate nonprofit.
The Historical Society had hoped to finance the statue by selling miniature
versions for $875. Moran said yesterday that he does not know whether the costs
were recouped.

"We were right all along, weren’t we?" said Brag Bowling, a spokesman
for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "We had those guys pegged."

Cynthia MacLeod, superintendent of the Richmond National Battlefield Park,
said the group’s tax-exempt status appeared to be in order when the statue was

"I think it’s being received very well," she said. "We see people
having their pictures taken there. I’m glad that we’ve persevered."

Bowling called the statue "the least visited monument" in the city
and a stain on the Park Service and other supporters.

Asked if he regretted donating the statue, Moran cited "vindictive forces"
that want it removed but also Lincoln’s own words.

He said the president came to the Confederate capital not to gloat but "to
bind up the nation’s wounds."

"Does Lincoln regret coming to Richmond?" Moran asked. "I don’t
think he would regret coming to Richmond at all."

© 2007, Media General Inc.

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