Broken promises?

Museum founder claims governor reneged on offer to support project
March 5, 2008 4:14:55 PM PST
Another organization is saying Governor Rod Blagojevich has broken a promise. The founder and president of the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago says the facility has yet to see millions of dollars in funding promised by the governor. Construction has been on hold for months.

"I thought I'd found our very best friend and it didn't turn out that way," said Bruce DuMont, Museum of Broadcast Communications.

The museum's founder says he did not ask for the money. He says it was offered by the governor, who has yet to deliver. In fairness, the governor gets a lot of requests for state aide. At issue is whether he makes promises he can't or won't keep.

It is a shell of a museum. But its founder says, these days, it might as well be a monument to broken promises.

"Every day we're not open the cost of the project goes up," said DuMont.

In 2005, Bruce DuMont's dream of a stand-alone Museum of Broadcast Communications appeared on track. He had already raised $14.5 million. That's when he says Governor Blagojevich made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

"After 10 minutes of conversation, he said, 'How's the museum?' I said, 'We are always looking for support.' He said, 'We've got support. Come to the state, we'll help you out,' " said DuMont.

DuMont claims the governor originally offered him $8 million. But in the weeks that followed, he says, Blagojevich's staffers said the Governor over-promised. Three million was more realistic.

And, on May 2 of 2006, DuMont received a confirmation letter from the director of the state's commerce and economic opportunity department. His name is Jack Lavin and he is the same man who signed off on the deal that sent $1 million in state money intended for Pilgrim Baptist Church to a private school with no ties to the historic congregation.

Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn added his voice to a chorus of calls for hearings into how Blagojevich spends taxpayer money.

"If there's some sort of willy-nilly approach to giving out state grants, that needs a full and thorough investigation," said Quinn.

Meanwhile, construction at the Museum of Broadcast Communications remains stalled.

What happened to the state grant? A spokesperson for the governor says, in 2006, DuMont was told in a letter, "The state stands ready to assist the museum, provided that the museum can responsibly ensure the taxpayers' money." The museum founder says, at that point, Blagojevich staffers began adding insurmountable conditions the Governor never mentioned when he cheerfully offered his help.

As for what happened to those millions...

"The response was, 'It went elsewhere.' That's it," DuMont said. "We said, 'Here's the paper. When were you going to tell us that we weren't going to get the money?' They said, 'Listen, forget it. Shut up and quit complaining about it.' "

The governor's spokesperson says she is not surprised that as a result of Blagojevich coming up with new money for Pilgrim Baptist Church other people previously deemed ineligible for state money are now coming out of the woodwork hat in hand.

It should be mentioned: at the request of ABC7, our parent company Disney contributed some money to the museum's efforts to build a permanent home.

As for what's next for the museum, Dumont hopes new retail tenants and a banquet facility on the top floor will give him the cash to finally complete the project.