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State forces Wilder to address museum
Wilder confirms he is no longer fundraising for proposed slavery museum in Fredericksburg


Date published: 3/5/2010

BY EMILY BATTLE

Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder confirmed in a letter last week to state officials that he is no longer raising money for his U.S. National Slavery Museum, planned for Fredericksburg's Celebrate Virginia development.

"The Museum has closed its offices in Fredericksburg and is not soliciting contributions at this time," Wilder wrote. "As soon as economic conditions improve, the Museum will take all necessary and appropriate steps to re-open its offices and resume solicitations of funds. It is the intention of the Board to maintain the Museum's location in Fredericksburg."

Wilder, the museum's founder and chairman of its board of directors, had allowed the expiration in May 2008 of the museum's registration to solicit charitable contributions in Virginia.

Since then, the state's Office of Consumer Affairs had sought the documents required to renew that registration.

On Feb. 18, the office sent a letter to Wilder informing him that he had 10 days to let the office know whether the museum was soliciting contributions anymore, or the state would issue a press release stating that the museum is not registered to solicit contributions in Virginia and cautioning donors that "their contributions may be used for non-charitable purposes."

Consumer Affairs spokeswoman Elaine Lidholm said Wilder would need to fully register with the office in order to start fundraising again. That includes paying a fee and sending in all required financial statements and forms as well as contracts with professional fundraisers.

"At this time, because they have indicated they are not currently soliciting contributions in Virginia, we have closed their file and marked it 'no longer soliciting,'" Lidholm wrote in an e-mail.

In addition to letting its fundraising status lapse, the museum also faces the following hurdles:

It owes more than $80,000 in overdue real estate taxes to Fredericksburg, dating to 2008. At the beginning of next year, the city would legally be able to put the 38-acre museum property up for sale to recover that money.

A zoning permit needed to build the museum as planned, allowing it to exceed the city's building height limits, has expired.

All the museum's former Web domains are no longer promoting the museum, and it has shut down its telephone lines and offices in Fredericksburg.

The museum has not filed its federal tax return for 2008, which was due in November. The Free Lance-Star requested this return from both Wilder and the Internal Revenue Service late last year.

The IRS responded in January that it had not received the return.

Federal guidelines require nonprofit organizations with assets greater than $2.5 million to file annually. The museum's land is valued at more than $17 million.

Emily Battle: 540/374-5413
Email: ebattle@freelancestar.com