Did Obama use the NEA to stump for ObamaCare?

posted at 12:15 pm on September 21, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The White House has tried to campaign hard for its health-care overhaul, but now allegations have arisen that the Obama administration abused its power by pushing the National Endowment for the Arts into campaigning for it as well.  Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood publishes today the transcript of a conference call hosted by the NEA in which they push grant recipients to speak out on behalf of Obama’s top domestic-policy agenda item.  If true, the White House may have substantiated one of the arguments conservatives use for the abolition of the NEA as well as abused its power — and they have the audio to prove it:

On August 10th, the National Endowment for the Arts, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and the Corporation for National and Community Service hosted a conference call with a handpicked arts group. This arts group played a key role in Obama’s arts effort during his election campaign, as declared by the organizers of the call, and many on the call played a role in the now famous Obama Hope poster.

Much of the talk on the conference call was a build up to what the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was specifically asking of this group. In the following segment, Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, clearly identifies this arts group as a pro-Obama collective and warns them of some “specific asks” that will be delivered later in the meeting. …

What were the “asks”? They were for this pro-Obama arts group to create art on several hotly debated political issues, including health care:

  • “I would encourage you to pick something, whether it’s health care, education, the environment, you know, there’s four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service.”
  • “And then my ask would be to apply artistic, you know, your artistic creative communities utilities and bring them to the table.”
  • “Again, I’m really, really honored to be working with you; the National Endowment for the Arts is really honored.”
  • “You’re going to see a lot more of us in the next four and hopefully eight years.”

The NEA supposedly is “dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education,” according to its website.  It has nothing at all to do with health care, tax policy, or the environment.  Nor should it; if it belongs in government at all, it should restrict itself to its area of expertise, not abuse taxpayer patronage by becoming a propaganda arm of the current administration.

Does this break the law?  That’s questionable, but it certainly breaks the trust of the American taxpayer.  We do not fund the NEA for it to produce Leni Riefenstahl-type art.  If the NEA wants to go into policy activism, then it should become a private foundation with private funding, and Congress should cut it loose.

The NEA was bad enough when it was using tax dollars to fund such memorable art as placing a crucifix in a jar of urine.  Congress should completely defund the NEA at this juncture and tell the Obama administration to end its attempts to build propaganda machines in the executive branch.

Update: My friend Kerry Picket at the Washington Times wants to activate an Army of Davids to get information on the teleconference’s participants (via Michelle):

We invite bloggers and other interested readers to check out the names on the list for themselves. Some individuals are more well known than others. We’re looking for solid, well-sourced information we can use to expand our coverage and generate new stories. This is an example. Here are some ideas on what to start with:

Is the information about them accurate/up to date?

Have these individuals been involved in Democratic politics?

Are they campaign donors? To whom?

Since the Aug. 10 conference call, have any of these individuals been involved in political activism related to health care, environment or education, the subjects suggested by the NEA in the call?

Are they members of any of the 21 arts organizations that endorsed health care reform two days after the call?

Are any of them involved in other arts groups funded through the NEA or through state-level arts agencies funded by the NEA?

Do they have a history of being involved with dubious causes such as 9/11 “Truther” statements?

How many of them have written for The Huffington Post (we’ve noticed a couple)?

When you’ve got something good, stick links to the supporting information in our comments or a post on your blog or email us at kpicket@washingtontimes.com . We’ll do our best to stay on top of any new information and credit the person who dug it up.

A couple quick things to keep in mind. We’ve already attempted to contact the people on the list, so there is no need to follow in our footsteps. As they respond, we’ll add an updated tally in another post on the Water Cooler. Second, the people on the list are private citizens who were asked to be on a call where a National Endowment for the Arts official went way too far in pushing for artists and arts groups to get behind the administration agenda. The people on the call didn’t neccesarily do anything controversial or wrong. The NEA and the White House are the ones who have gone too far.

Update II: Don’t miss Big Government’s post on Buffy Wicks, who participated in the call and has ties to … ACORN!  Did that background help her pimp for Obama among the artist community?


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