The latest political power play at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum comes from Speaker Michael Madigan, who is pushing a plan to set up the center as a free-standing state agency despite opponents’ concerns it would become a patronage haven.
With the budget still unsettled and less than a week until adjournment, the Democratic speaker used the Memorial Day session to move through a committee a plan that would make the library and museum more independent of Gov. Pat Quinn. The speaker’s bill would remove the library from under the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The Quinn administration was largely silent on the issue, but estimated the cost for the switch would be $2.4 million at a time when other historic sites are considered for closure because of the state’s budget crunch.
Madigan’s proposal could benefit some of his friends. The Springfield presidential museum is run by Eileen Mackevich, a Madigan friend. Madigan confirmed she is a longtime acquaintance of Stanley Balzekas, whose family runs the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture. Madigan acknowledged his Southwest Side office is at the same 13th Ward address as the museum, and that Balzekas is the landlord.