Free Markets, Free People

NEA Fallout: White House Responds

Jake Tapper reports the White House response to the Big Hollywood scoop:

An August 10, 2009 National Endowment for the Arts conference call in which artists were asked to help support President Obama’s agenda — a call that at least one good government group called “inappropriate” — has prompted the White House to issue new guidelines to prevent such a call from ever happening again.

“The point of the call was to encourage voluntary participation in a national service initiative by the arts community,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told ABC News. “To the extent there was any misunderstanding about what the NEA may do to support the national service initiative, we will correct it. We regret any comments on the call that may have been misunderstood or troubled other participants. We are fully committed to the NEA’s historic mission, and we will take all steps necessary to ensure that there is no further cause for questions or concerns about that commitment.”

It’s not clear why new guidelines are necessary. Is the Obama administration trying to suggest that the old guidelines are to blame?

White House officials say they are enacting specific steps to make sure such a call never happens again.

Today White House officials are meeting with the chiefs of staff of the executive branch agencies to discuss rules and best practices in this area, a conversation during which they will be told that that while White House lawyers do not believe that the NEA call violated the law, “the appearance issues troubled some participants,” Burton said. “It is the policy of the administration that grant decisions should be on the merits and that government officials should avoid even creating the incorrect appearance that politics has anything to do with these decisions.”

Well that should be an easy task:

Step 1 — Don’t call potential grant recipients and “ask” them to push your political agenda.

Step 2 — See Step 1; yes, even if you think you can get away with it.

Step 3 — Really, we know that the media won’t care, but there’s always some crybaby concerned citizen who will blab, so just go back to Step 1.

Step 4 — My, you are persistent, aren’t you! Please see David Axelrod for reassignment. We think he’ll find you to be a real “Winner”.

Step 5 — You aren’t the person we thought we knew. Please find room under the bus.

In any case, now that the White House has acknowledged at least some cause for concern over the conference call, the MSM has sprung into action. Here’s a list of the articles fr-om your major news organs:

New York Times — N/A
Washington Post — N/A
Los Angeles Times — N/A
ABC News — N/A (although, the Tapper article above can be found if you root around the site long enough)
CBS News — N/A

That’s your intrepid Fourth Estate for you. Meanwhile, there are tons of questions left to be answered, such as why Buffy Wicks (with the White House Office of Public Engagement) was involved on the call, and what her supervisor, Valeria Jarrett, knew about it. Why was an employee of Winner & Associates on the call? And, again, what was wrong with the old guidelines that they need to be revised? Moreover, what about the $2 Million in grant money doled out by the NEA (about $1 million of which was from stimulus funds) finding its way back to Washington in the form of political donations and lobbying expenses?

Digging deeper i-nto the grants only reveals more disturbing questions. Among the recipients of the grants, in this case, $50,000 fr-om the stimulus package, is a group named Americans for the Arts. According to federal records published at, Americans for the Arts has already dedicated $250,000 to lobbying expenses this year alone. The president of Americans for the Arts is an Obama donor and the affiliated political action committee gave $48,000 to congressional Democrats in the last election cycle. According to NEA records analyzed by The Washington Times, donors to the PAC received more than an additional $500,000 in stimulus funds.

Surely there is some story to be written there.

Most interesting of all is that questions regarding the legality of the NEA propaganda push have all but been swept under the rug. Tapper reported that “White House lawyers do not believe that the NEA call violated the law,” which apparently suffices for the rest of the press corp.

All I can say is that if Breitbart decides to go public with one of his media ventures, I would rate that stock as a serious “buy and hold”.

7 Responses to NEA Fallout: White House Responds

  • What about Fox? Who cares about the other ones, they have lousy ratings anyway . . .

  • Surely there is some story to be written there.

    Yes, but not by the outfits you listed above.

  • I don’t know about guidelines, but I was under the impression that there were actual laws against this. Something about not spending government money on lobbying ar advocacy?

    • come on now, this is a new century, Laws are something flexible, not solid and frumpy like you conservatives. Laws are only broken when evil rethuglicans are in power.

  • Tapper reported that “White House lawyers do not believe that the NEA call violated the law,” which apparently suffices for the rest of the press corp.

    I figure that Eric Holder is preparing an investigation as we speak.

  • MichaelWTapper reported that “White House lawyers do not believe that the NEA call violated the law,” which apparently suffices for the rest of the press corp.

    This is “fact-checking” in the Age of Obama: somebody makes an accusation about TAO. MiniTru asks him or his advisors if it’s true. He denies it. MiniTru reports that the accusation has been “fact checked” and found untrue. QED.

    At any rate, it looks to me like this story is – sadly, predictably – going nowhere. First of all, it isn’t “sexy”: some White House flunky that we’ve never heard of called up some artists and asked them to make some posters for health care. What does NEA stand for, again? Why are teachers making posters? After sixteen years of Vince Foster, Monica, FBI files, Whitewater, Abu Ghraib, fired US attornies, wiretapping, and all the other crimes (real and imagined) committed by Slick Willie and Bush, this hardly rates a raised eyebrow.

    Second of all – and this can’t be said enough – MiniTru isn’t interested. We can scoff at MiniTru for its bias and incompetence, but the fact remains that it control the big bullhorn. It’s not a “story” until the NYT, CNN, the Big Three, et al, say that it is.

    DonWhat about Fox? Who cares about the other ones, they have lousy ratings anyway . . .


    Now, here’s another question: how many blogs are covering the story? If we accept that blogs (a central part of the “new media”) are important sources of news for Americans, then it is reasonable to ask how many are covering this. And not just “right-wing” blogs. For example, did HuffPo even admit that this happened?

    The silence from MiniTru (and, I assume, large chunks of the “new media”) about TAO’s shady activities doubtless accounts for the fact that a majority of Americans, even if they don’t like his policies, still view him favorably (cf. post about Charlie Rose’s predictions). All they hear about him is that he’s fighting hard to get health care reform, that he’s a great speechmaker, that he’s pushing the Israelis and the Palis hard to make peace, that Michelle has great arms, blah-blah-blah. They DON’T hear that his old pals at ACORN were advising on how to commit various crimes, or that his White House advisors are probably breaking the law by using government money to make propaganda, or even that he stabbed Poland and the Czechs in the back. Yep, he’s a helluva guy, is TAO… so long as you don’t know too many details of what he’s up to.

  • This line is already worn out: Can you imagine if something like this happened in the Bush White House?

    It will be worn gossamer thin over the next few years, until no one even bothers to note it.

    This was a story made to lead the nightly news programs on the broadcast networks — IF a Republican administration had done it.

    Imagine the very idea of using the National Endowment for the Arts to promote George Bush’s political agenda. Why, the very suggestion of it would have caused Frank Rich to burst into flames.

    Happens inside the Obama White House, and it’s not even an itch. Not even a momentary gas bubble.