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A new report shows the private Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation has known for years that there wasn't enough evidence to prove that a $6.5 million hat belonged to Abraham Lincoln, even as foundation officials sought state money to pay off a loan used to be the hat and other artifacts.
One state lawmaker says he wants to know why he didn't know that when the foundation asked for money to be included in the state budget to pay off the foundation's $9.7 million debt.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation looked at the top hat at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, and told foundation managers to downplay claims that the hat belonged to Lincoln. Back in 2015.
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State Rep. Tim Butler said he didn't learn of the FBI's findings until this week. He said foundation managers didn't share the news when they asked him for help getting state money to pay what they owe on the hat.
"We have this private report from five years ago that calls into question of the hat is the hat. I think that's unconscionable," Butler said. "I think there are a lot of questions surrounding the work of the foundation right now. I think we have to have public hearings, through the House of Representatives – the chamber that Lincoln served in, the Illinois House – and get to the bottom of this."
The WBEZ report that broke the news quotes foundation managers as not knowing about the FBI findings.
"What I found really maddening is that, publicly, the foundation has said 'We need to hang on to this hat,'" Butler said. "The director of the foundation has written editorials where she mentions that hat, basically saying it's Abe's top hat, in an effort to get money. But she's know about this report for five years that calls it into question."
Butler said he's already talked to statehouse leaders about the hearings, he hopes to see something before election day in November.