The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Centennial Commission, from which Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee A. Iacocca was fired this week, has 43 members, many of them luminaries from the fields of entertainment, business, sports and politics.
Bob Hope and his wife, Delores, are members, as are former U.N. ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, baseball commissioner Peter B. Ueberroth, North Carolina State University basketball coach James Thomas Valvano and industrialist Pierre S. DuPont.
But the group, created in March 1982 to advise the Interior Department on how to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, has met only a few times and offered little advice as yet.
To date, the focus of public attention has been on the companion Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, a private group formed a year earlier with the goal of raising at least $230 million. Last week, the group announced that it has surpassed that goal, bringing in more than $233 million for restoration of the deteriorating landmarks.
Until now, Interior Department officials say, there was no need to raise questions about the propriety of Iacocca serving as chairman of both groups.
"No one looked at the commission, because it hadn't done anything anyway," said one senior official.
That is likely to change as the fund-raising winds down and proposals are advanced for how to restore Ellis Island, which has been scheduled to receive nearly half of the money.
Iacocca is said to favor a plan to develop an "ethnic Williamsburg" on the 23-acre Ellis Island, leaving the land in federal hands. National Park Service officials said they favor a more limited proposal that would restore only part of the immigration facilities and allow private development elsewhere on the island.
According to foundation officials, more than half of the restoration funds came from corporate and individual gifts, including more than $5 million raised by schoolchildren.
More than $15 million came from the sale of licensed products bearing the likeness of the Statue of Liberty, a fund-raising tactic that was highly controversial within the park service. Much of the rest of the money came from sponsorships.
The foundation had earmarked 28 percent of the money, or about $65 million, for renovation of the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island. About 47 percent has been earmarked for restoration of Ellis Island's "main areas," including the crumbling facilities where millions of immigrants were processed.
About $18 million, or 8 percent of the fund, would be put into an endowed trust for maintenance of the monuments, and another $7 million, or 3 percent, would be spent for public education programs.
The remainder -- about $45 million -- would go to pay fund-raising and management costs, the foundation said.
Work on the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island has been under way for more than two years and is expected to be essentially complete by July 4, in time for a four-day celebration of the statue's centennial.