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Senate blocks $1 million for Bethel Woods museum

Museum will still open in May, director named


BETHEL, NY — In a move that was connected to presidential politics, the U.S. Senate voted on October 18 to block the $1 million that had been earmarked to help fund The Museum at Bethel Woods.

“Woodstock museum is a shining example of what’s wrong with Washington on pork-barrel, out-of-control spending,” said John McCain, who is a Republican senator from Arizona, and who is running for president.

The other Republican senator from Arizona, John Kyl said, “It seems to me that we do have to ask questions like whether it’s the will of this body to fund an earmark for a museum celebrating a weekend-long party that occurred 38 years ago.”

New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, both Democrats, inserted the earmark into a bill in June. About a week later, according to various news reports, Alan Gerry, head of the Gerry Foundation and the driving force behind Bethel Woods, and Gerry’s family, gave $9,200 to Clinton’s presidential campaign, and had earlier donated $26,000 to the senate campaign committee headed by Schumer.

According to records of the Federal Election Commission, Gerry and his wife Sandra have donated more than $300,000 over the past 10 years to various campaigns, including a $25,000 donation to the National Republican Committee in 2004.

Schumer said there was no connection between the political donations and the earmark. He defended the earmark, saying it would help create jobs in Sullivan County, and he would work to support the museum in the future. Clinton, who was not in the Senate during the debate, did not comment on the matter.

Five Democrats joined the Republicans in effectively killing the $1 million earmark in a 52 to 42 vote.

The vote, however, does not mean the museum won’t open. A spokeswoman for Bethel Woods said the organization has no comment on the Senate action at this time, but, “We look forward to the scheduled opening of the museum in May 2008.”

Museum director named

The Senate vote came just a day after Bethel Woods announced that Wade Lawrence had been named to head the museum.

According to a release issued by Bethel Woods, “Before accepting his current position Lawrence served as director of Glensheen, a house museum in Duluth, MN owned by the University of Minnesota, and Assistant Director of Drayton Hall, a National Historic Landmark in Charleston, SC owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.”

Lawrence said, “I am thrilled to be a part of this museum that will honor the legacy of Woodstock and the decade it represents. This will be a place where our generation can reconnect with our youth and share the experience with our children and grandchildren—a touchstone for an era of radical change, much of which we are still living with today.”