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
MSNBC — 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 OpenSecrets.org, 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”.