Colo. ordered to return Clinton portrait |

Colo. ordered to return Clinton portrait

State Rep. Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, points to the paintings of the former presidents on display at the Capitol in Denver, Friday, Feb. 16, 2007. The National Archive in Washington, D.C., has requested that the portrait of former President Bill Clinton, second from right, be returned. Weissmann is working to keep the National Archive's portrait of Clinton in the state Capitol's rotunda, where portraits of all the nation's presidents are displayed. Clinton's portrait is the only one not owned by the state. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER – The National Archives and Records Administration wants the portrait of President Clinton now hanging at the State Capitol returned, but a brewing fight to keep it has united a Democrat and Republican, if only temporarily.The portrait has been on loan to the state for about 10 years, but the archives wants it back as it tightens up its loan requirements. So the registrar of the William J. Clinton Library in Little Rock, Ark., which is administered by the federal agency, told the state last summer that the portrait must be returned by March 30.Colorado may be able to keep the portrait until May, after the legislative session ends, but state Rep. Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, said Friday that Colorado should fight to keep the portrait because he thinks the decision is “stupid.””It will likely just be mothballed in Little Rock. It serves a purpose being displayed in Colorado,” Weissmann said. “…I say ‘OK National Archives, you come and bring your own ladder’ and I bet they never show up.”

The library’s curator didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment and the registrar and the director of public programs both declined comment, referring questions to the curator. A Clinton spokesman didn’t immediately return an e-mail or telephone message.The portraits of the nation’s 43 presidents hang around the third floor of the Capitol’s rotunda. All are by the same artist, the late Lawrence Williams, and all are owned by the state except for Clinton’s portrait. Forty of the portraits were given to the state by Harry Sullivan and his wife and the portrait of George W. Bush, which hangs next to Clinton’s, was donated by the Stroehle family from Black Hawk.Weissmann has asked for Colorado’s congressional delegation for help, along with Sen. Hillary Clinton and the William J. Clinton Foundation. He’s found some support from an unlikely source – U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a conservative Republican from Colorado Springs and former state senator.Lamborn staffer Mark Cloer, another former state lawmaker, acknowledged that Clinton is seen as a hero to Democrats much as President Reagan is admired by Republicans. But he said keeping the portrait, even just for a little longer, benefits the whole state.

Lamborn has asked that the National Archives wait until May before taking the portrait so school children and other people touring the Capitol while the Legislature is in session will be able to see the portrait.”It would be a shame to have a gap, smack at the end, in our historical documentation,” Cloer said.Cloer said he believes the National Archives needs the portrait back to make sure the paintings are being well cared for and aren’t being over exposed to light.On Friday, the committee responsible for the Capitol’s historic preservation agreed that if they’re ultimately unable to keep the portrait, they would have a replica made. Chairman Hugh Fowler, a former Republican state senator, joked that the National Archives’ order was an act of “curatorial terrorism.”

“I don’t know why we don’t take the damn thing down to Kinko’s,” he said of the portrait.Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, said it could take months if not a couple of years to get a replica.Weissman said he’s not worried about whether there’s a Clinton portrait in time for the Democratic National Convention next year and he won’t be fundraising to buy a whole new portrait. He said it’s not a partisan issue.”They could have tried to get George Bush or Millard Fillmore. It wouldn’t make any difference to me,” he said.

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