A monument commemorating slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. will be built on the National Mall this year. King's children are gouging the private foundation that is building it for nearly $1 million.
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation has raised about $104 million, mostly from foundations, corporations, and private donors, for the construction of the memorial. But King's children and cousin, who own King's intellectual property and likeness through companies and foundations they control, have demanded more than $800,000 in licensing and management fees for the use of King's words and images in the memorial foundation's fundraising materials, the AP reports.
According to financial documents reviewed by The Associated Press, the foundation paid $761,160 in 2007 to Intellectual Properties Management Inc., an entity run by King's family. Documents also show a "management" fee of $71,700 was paid to the family estate in 2003.
The foundation—run by King's son Dexter, while Bernice and Martin Luther King III sit on the board children—has profited by claiming ownership over their father's legacy for years. They successfully sued USA Today and CBS in the 1990s for publishing his "I Have a Dream" speech without paying, and have since charged CNN for exclusive rights to broadcast it.
But skimming off funds destined for the memorial itself is too much for some King scholars, who are calling the kids out for it.
"I don't think the Jefferson family, the Lincoln family ... I don't think any other group of family ancestors has been paid a licensing fee for a memorial in Washington," said Cambridge University historian David Garrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of King. "One would think any family would be so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny."
The King kids told the AP that they charged the fees because the memorial's fundraising drive has cut into contributions to their own King Center. According to the King Center's Form 990 tax returns for 2006, Dexter drew a $186,000 salary from the King Center, which also paid $1 million consulting fee to Intellectual Properties Management. Clearly the kids need money more than they need a monument to their father's memory.