A Washington Times editorial today explains the serious issues raised by the discovery that arts groups funded by the National Endowment for the Arts were being mobilized to support the White House political agenda. The official claims that this was isolated misbehavior look very shaky in light of the circumstancs:
The facts are simple and public. During the transition, President Obama's top arts adviser made it clear that his ambition was for the arts to become an integral part of the West Wing. After the inauguration, meetings of artists and political activists at the White House explicitly discussed how to keep the arts community in campaign mode to back Mr. Obama's legislative agenda. An NEA grants official, Mario Garcia Durham, was at one such meeting for which the attendee list is public.
As those meetings occurred, Yosi Sergant, a key cog in the Obama campaign's outreach to artists, was transferred from a position at the White House to a position as the communications director of the NEA. When the grant spigots opened at the NEA, more than $2 million went directly into the coffers of arts organizations (and their members) attending these meetings and publicly backing elements of the administration agenda.
Does that prove laws have been broken? Of course not. The worst appearances can be completely innocent.
The editorial goes on to define 5 serious questions which demand answers. The NEA inspector general and Congress both have a duty to get to the bottom of this. There is the appearance of a serious, coordinated effort to politicize arts grant-making.
Read the whole thing.