Free Markets, Free People

NEA

Union discontent? Could it be a big factor in 2012?

Interesting story from Fox News about labor unions and their approach to 2012.  Fox describes their relationship to Obama as “wedded but wary”. One of the most interesting points is found in this paragraph:

Federal records show labor unions spent close to $100 million in the 2010 midterm cycle – over $20 million more than what they spent in 2008 – but nonetheless saw their share of the electorate drop from one cycle to the next, from 21 percent to 17 percent.

That’s a significant drop in 4 years.  Also worth noting is more money was spent than previously (and spent in an off-year election to boot) and the results were less than stellar.  In fact, they were disastrous.

As the article describes, there also seems to be some fracturing within the union ranks.  You recall that yesterday it was announced that the NEA (teacher’s union) had again endorsed Barack Obama for president.  For most that was “yeah, so what’s new” news.  The news was contained in the vote:

…[T]he National Education Association (NEA), which represents teachers and school administrators and is one of the largest unions in the country, voted at its annual convention in Chicago on Monday to endorse President Obama for re-election. Still, analysts took note of the margin of victory for Obama in the NEA’s rank-and-file vote – 72 percent in favor, 28 percent opposed.

That’s a significant change from the near unanimous endorsement Obama received the last time around. 

When challenged, union leaders usually revert to form.  Remember, the key principle of unionism is “solidarity” and it is expected of the rank and file.  It’s pretty bad, though, when the “thug” making the threats to those who don’t abide by that is the Vice President of the United States.

“Let me put it this way,” Vice President Biden told a Teamsters audience in Las Vegas last Friday, after raising the prospect that some rank-and-file members might vote Republican. “Don’t come to me if you do! You’re on your own, jack!”

Because we’re an administration of the unions, not the people.

But the White House’s problem is rekindling the union enthusiasm it captured when Obama was essentially an unknown quantity – before they found out he was mostly hot air.  And that’s reflected by frequent White House guest and president of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka’s words:

“You can be a friend and make a mistake once in a while. And we forgive you for that mistake. The difference is this: that we’re not going to spend precious resources helping candidates that don’t stand up and help us.”

"I have a message for some of our ‘friends,’" Trumka reportedly told another Beltway audience last month, sharpening his tone. “For too long, we have been left after Election Day holding a canceled check, waving it about [and saying] ‘Remember us? Remember us? Remember us?’ – asking someone to pay a little attention to us. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a snootful of that s—."

That grumbling and the possible lack of enthusiasm could be a very important factor in the upcoming election.  Unions provide much if not most of the “Get Out The Vote” (GOTV) troops that helped Obama to his victory.  Dissatisfaction presents Obama with a problem.  He is, at the moment, desperately casting around for a way to appear moderate and to being to run to the middle.  He has a big job ahead to try and win back independents who poll after poll tell us have essentially deserted him.  But on the other hand, he has to be concerned with the dissatisfaction being voiced by one of his largest and most powerful constituencies, one that has previously spent enormously in his (and his party’s) behalf and been instrumental in his victory.  What’s a politician to do?

Now I’m not suggesting that unions will abandon Obama by any stretch.  However, while union leaders may remain supporters of the administration and be enthusiastic about their support, it would appear they may have a very difficult time transmitting their level of support and enthusiasm to the rank-and-file.  

Finally, unions continue to face this real world problem:

That the unions may be spending more money to achieve diminished results would reflect their shrinking percentage of the population as a whole. In 1950, an estimated 38 percent of the American labor force belonged to a union; today, that figure stands at around 12 percent, and even lower – 7 percent – for the private sector. This diminution in labor’s ranks is all the more significant when juxtaposed with the tripling of the American labor force over the same time period.

I’m always amused to read stories where Democrats whine about the outsized influence corporations have in politics.  Union support somehow is never mentioned as being “outsized” for some odd reason. Go figure.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Campaign finance reform: be careful what you wish for Democrats

You’ve heard all the whining by Democrats about “outside spending” on election campaigns and the lecture of the members of the Supreme Court by President Obama during the last State of the Union address because they overturned the unconstitutional campaign finance law?  Their concerns, as they stated them, were about “outside spending” on campaigns.  That’s a Dem code phrase for “corporate spending”.  But as this election cycle is demonstrating, most of the “outside spending” for the mid-terms isn’t coming from corporations per se – it’s coming from public employee unions.

Of the top five “outside sources” of spending, three are pubic employee unions.  The top spender is The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees at 87.5 million dollars.  The next two are the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads (Karl Rove).  Numbers four and five are the SEIU and NEA.  Of those five the two supporting Republicans has spent 140 million.  The public sector unions, committed to Democrats, have spent 171.5 million.

Asked about this here’s the White House response:

When asked about AFSCME’s ramped up campaign efforts following the court’s decision, the White House focused on largely anonymous campaign spending by what it termed "special interests."

"The president has been crystal clear that third-party groups which spend tens of millions of dollars from anonymous sources are a threat to our democracy—regardless of which candidates they support," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. He said these groups are disproportionately backing Republican candidates.

Yeah, not so much Josh.  And you have to wonder why “anonymous” sources are somehow more of a “threat to our democracy” than known sources like the AFSCME, SEIU and NEA?  And since when haven’t they been as much “special interests” for Democrats as they claim Big Business is for the GOP?

By the way, you’ll love this:

Previously, most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election.

Nice.  Any guess as to whether union dues will rise next year since much of them are now being spent on political lobbying/campaigning/advertising?  And how does it feel to have your tax dollars indirectly supporting political advertising with which you don’t agree (and for those in the unions who don’t agree, their dues are directly supporting such efforts).

Back to the point of the title though – given these numbers, one wonders how much continued caterwauling we’ll hear from Obama and the Democrats with 2012 looming?

Yeah, not much.

~McQ

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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”.

NEA = Ministry of Propaganda (Update)

As teased last night, Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood has a bunch of new articles up today regarding the NEA efforts to push Pres. Obama’s agenda through propaganda:

Should the National Endowment for the Arts encourage artists to create art on issues being vehemently debated nationally?

That is the question that I set out to discuss a little over three weeks ago when I wrote an article on Big Hollywood entitled The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion?”

The question still requires debate but the facts do not.

The NEA and the White House did encourage a handpicked, pro-Obama arts group to address politically controversial issues under contentious national debate. That fact is irrefutable.

But some have claimed that the invite and passages, pulled from the conference call that inspired the article, were taken out of context. Context is what I intend to establish here.

In addition to the Patrick Courrielche article above, Breitbart has a series of others dissecting and analyzing the NEA and White House actions on the Big Government site. While other than complete transcripts and audio of the conference call, not a whole lot new is revealed in these reports. There is a good rundown of the facts versus White House claims, as well as a link to some prior investigation into the money angle. However, I think Patterico cogently sums up the importance of this (still developing) story:

It would be a mistake to dismiss this story as unimportant because there is no jaw-dropping angle like ACORN staffers’ apparent complicity in trafficking in under-age children for prostitution. Consider what is happening: the NEA is encouraging artists to create propaganda for a president’s policy initiatives. This is a corrosive precedent — and what’s more, it illustrates the overarching danger of the Obama administration: government, by increasingly taking over various aspects of American society, threatens to bend society to the will of a single man.

It would also be a mistake to dismiss the story as old just because the basic contours of the story were revealed in August. Since then, the NEA and the Obama administration have denied pursuing a legislative agenda in the call; today it is clear that they lied. What’s more, they tried to cover it up with the reassignment of Sergant. And the media played right along, for the most part acting as though that was the end of it.

From a politics standpoint, the potential illegality involved here is the paramount issue, and the use of federal funds for propaganda runs a close (and closely related) second. However, from where I sit it’s the all-out assault on the traditional media that’s so interesting. Breitbart has now twice invited to MSM to look behind the curtain to see what they’re protecting, and twice they’ve passed. He forced them to cover the ACORN story. Will he do it again with the NEA scandal? Keep in mind that Breitbart has darkly hinted that there is more to come:

Everything you needed to know about the unorthodox roll out of the now-notorious ACORN sting videos was hidden in plain sight in my Sept. 7 column, “Katie Couric, Look in the Mirror.” ACORN was not the only target of those videos; so were Katie, Brian, Charlie and every other mainstream media pooh-bah.

They were not going to report this blockbuster unless they were forced to. And they were. What’s more, it ain’t over yet. Not every hint I dropped in that piece about what was to come has played itself out yet.Stay tuned.

Does that mean that there is yet more to come on the NEA promoting propaganda in support of the president’s agenda? It’s hard to say. If it turns out that some laws were broken, however, expect Breitbart to rub the MSM’s noses in it with as much publicity as he can muster (which is likely a tremendous amount).

UPDATE: While the Obama administration is busy using the tax-payer funded NEA to push its agenda, it’s also using its police powers to harass those who speak out against its agenda (via HotAir,):

The government is investigating a major insurance company for allegedly trying to scare seniors with a mailer warning they could lose important benefits under health care legislation in Congress.

The Health and Human Services Department launched its investigation of Humana after getting a complaint from Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a senior lawmaker usually viewed as a reliable ally of the insurance industry.

“It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject — particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform,” Baucus said Monday, disclosing the HHS investigation.

Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is cooperating with the investigation and stopped the mailer earlier this month, company spokesman Tom Noland said Monday.

Now, you can call me a conspiracy theorist if it makes you feel important and wise, but how else other than “totalitarian” would you describe “free speech for me but not for thee” enforced at the end of a gun? Does that necessarily mean that we’re headed for gulags? No, but don’t let the failure to cross that line fool you. The Obama administration is putting on a full court press to pass its agenda, and apparently has no qualms about using every resource within its power, legal or otherwise, to accomplish that goal.

[This post is authored by Michael Wade. Because of technical difficulties, it has been posted under my account – McQ]

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Breitbart Bombshell Set to Explode? (Updated)

The hum and twitter around the blogosphere is that Andrew Breitbart has something serious cooking, and it’s coming out this week. After the pantsing his site, BigGovernment.com, gave the national media with the O’Keefe and Giles ACORN sting, Breitbart is apparently poised to embarrass them again with a scoop that promises to be juicy. Right now, the best speculation is that it will have to do with the NEA. Patterico peruses an article in which Breitbart seems to give strong hints:

Ace is right [in this post]: in Breitbart’s column, he said:

When the next big scandal hits – and it will, and it most certainly won’t come from traditional journalism – all eyes will be on “Pinch” Sulzberger to see if he does his job.

With hindsight, it’s obvious that Breitbart was foreshadowing the release of the ACORN tapes. He even specifically mentioned ACORN in his column, as one of two stories that showed how the media was covering for Obama.

So, let’s see. He identified ACORN as one of the two big stories, and then he dropped a bomb on ACORN. Now he’s hinting that there’s another bomb coming.

See what I’m getting at here?

If you’re trying to figure out what the next big shoe to drop might be, I suggest that you consider re-reading his column to see what he identified as the second story that demonstrates the media’s complicity with the Democrat party. Namely, the NEA:

Another story not making the evening news is that of artist Patrick Courrielche, who has shown that the National Endowment of the Arts is seeking to use government funds to promote Obama administration initiatives. On Sunday’s “This Week,” George Will pierced the mainstream media veil.

“Recently there was a conference call arranged by the National Endowment for the Arts, with a representative of the White House, for potential grantees or actual grantees of the federal government, getting subsidies – the theme of it was how the arts community could advance the president’s agenda. Now I don’t know how many laws that breaks, but I am sure there are some.”

What are you waiting for, Katie Couric?

If I were a betting man, I’d be betting big that the upcoming bombshell will relate to the NEA. You read it here first.

You may recall the NEA story (which both Bruce and I covered) regarding how the agency actively encouraged artists to promote the Obama administration’s agenda through their works.

In addition to Patterico’s reading of the tea leaves, two names have been floating around in connection with a Breitbart blockbuster, both of which are also connected to the NEA: Yosi Sargent, its communications director and the leader of the conference call described above, and Buffy Wicks, a former Obama field organizer now with the White House Office of Public Engagement who was also on the call. If the speculation is right, I’d have to guess that Breitbart has uncovered something incriminating (assuming that the NEA conference call breached some law or regulation).

Whatever it is, I agree with those who are saying that Breitbart’s primary target in all of this is the MSM. I think it was the media who were the real losers in the ACORN story, just as they were in the Van Jones debacle. Ever since last summer the media has unashamedly supported Obama in every way that it can, and covered up for him where possible. Embarrassing connections are buried, misstatements and outright lies are routinely ignored, and opposition is either painted in a most unflattering light or marginalized as fringe elements of little import. And that’s not to mention the constant caterwauling about racism at every turn. Breitbart easily outmaneuvered them in the past few weeks since, like the hare found out, you can’t sleep on the job and expect to stay out in front. As Ace said, “He warned the media. They ignored the warning.” I look forward to whatever comeuppance Mr. Breitbart has in store for them this week.

UPDATE: Yep. It’s the NEA all right:

So what did happen on that call? Was the NEA coordinating with the White House to push their agenda on a group of artists eager for and reliant upon the NEA for grants, or is the NEA telling the truth that this call “was not a means to promote any legislative agenda”?

Tomorrow at noon ET, explosive new information will answer that question and raise many others.

Make sure to go and RTWT.

Is This What “Public Funding Of The Arts” Means? (UPDATE)

For years the right has said that government has no business subsidizing art and for that same amount of time the left has claimed that government support is necessary to keep the arts alive. Of course some are of us are of the opinion that if “art” is sufficiently good, the private sector will gladly support it.

But what I assume both sides would agree on is that government support of the arts shouldn’t be abused and turned into government propaganda. Yet:

“…I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to take part in a conference call that invited a group of rising artist and art community luminaries “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda – health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.”

The quote comes from Patrick Courrielche at Big Hollywood and his post there documents his experience on the call.

Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.

Given the tone of the invitation, and the apparent concerns it raised, Courrielche called in. His concerns were validated:

The people running the conference call and rallying the group to get active on these issues were Yosi Sergant, the Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts; Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Nell Abernathy, Director of Outreach for United We Serve; Thomas Bates, Vice President of Civic Engagement for Rock the Vote; and Michael Skolnik, Political Director for Russell Simmons.

We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.

Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.

Hard to argue, given this report, that the NEA isn’t now involved in a political role. Courrielche wasn’t the only one who was concerned by what he heard. Lee Rosenbaum was “creeped out” by the call she participated in as well. She validates Courrielche’s report and conclusions. Courrielche writes a followup post here.

The point, of course, is it isn’t beyond any politician, administration or government to use and abuse any program for its benefit. When you have a community organizer in the Oval Office, it appears they get abused is record time – nd it is clear, at least to me, that in this case the plan is to use the NEA for propaganda and political gain. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfect reason to give the NEA the political death penalty and, finally and forever, defund it.

UPDATE – This isn’t the first time we’ve touched on this subject either. MichaelW covered it back on August 27th when the first conference call was held. Since then there’s been a second (that’s the call Lee Rosenbaum talks about) in which the NEA and White House try a few tricks to give them “plausible deniability” against charges of collusion in a program to get NEA artists to create propaganda for the administration.

~McQ

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PrObamaGanda

This is … disturbing:

“… I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to take part in a conference call that invited a group of rising artist and art community luminaries “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda – health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.”

Now admittedly, I’m a skeptic of BIG government. In my view, power tends to overreach whenever given the opportunity. It’s a law of human nature that has very few exceptions. That said, it felt to me that by providing issues as a cynosure for inspiration to a handpicked arts group – a group that played a key role in the President’s election as mentioned throughout the conference call – the National Endowment for the Arts was steering the art community toward creating art on the very issues that are currently under contentious national debate; those being health care reform and cap-and-trade legislation. Could the National Endowment for the Arts be looking to the art community to create an environment amenable to the administration’s positions?”

Hmmm. It may be a bit of a stretch, but I’ll go with “abso-freak’n-lutely” as my answer.

Oh, wait. Was that a rhetorical question?

I learned after the conference call that there were approximately 75 people participating, including many well respected street-artists, filmmakers, art galleries, music venues, musicians and music producers, writers, poets, actors, independent media outlets, marketers, and various other professionals from the creative community … Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.

[…]

We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.

Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.

Erm, yes, I guess that was a rhetorical question.

The NEA is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts. That is right, the largest funder of the arts in the nation – a fact that I’m sure was not lost on those that were on the call, including myself. One of the NEA’s major functions is providing grants to artists and arts organizations. The NEA has also historically shown the ability to attract “matching funds” for the art projects and foundations that they select. So we have the nation’s largest arts funder, which is a federal agency staffed by the administration, with those that they potentially fund together on a conference call discussing taking action on issues under vigorous national debate. Does there appear to be any potential for conflict here?

Assuming that I can answer that one, I’d say the potential for conflict is rather high. If an entire industry is almost entirely supported by the government then, when that benefactor starts making “suggestions” about how that industry should behave, you can bet that the industry will respond. In this case, propaganda posters, statues, billboards and movies would be the expected outcome. In the American car business, increased hybrid car production is the most likely result of government intervention (that is why Fiat was brought in after all).

So what do you think will happen when the federal government is in charge of paying for health care? If the government were to “suggest” that certain medical procedures should be favored, or that certain patients should receive care before others, do you suppose that the medical industry will have much leverage to resist? And suppose that new reforms are proposed after passage of whatever bill is frankensteined together this Fall. If the government is going to be paying most of the bills, who do you think the insurance companies, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, et al. will be paying more attention to when the Obama administration and its minions come calling? Patients or the government?

That is a rhetorical question, because I already know the answer.

[HT: Greyhawk]

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