NEA put to work for Obama

The National Endowment for the Arts is supposed to be an apolitical government agency that does nothing more than decide on worthy artistic projects and fund them.

They are a grant agency - and little else. Write to them about your latest idea for a one man show involving cow manure sculptures and you'll probably get approved.

Just one thing though. It would help if one of your cow manure statues was of President Obama, as Abbey Schachter of the New York Post explains:

The NEA, along with the White House Office of Public Engagement and United We Serve (the administration's volunteerism initiative), had invited 75 members of the arts community to listen to a discussion supposedly about national service. But one invitee, film producer Patrick Courrielche, soon blogged that the call turned out to be an effort to get participants to push the administration's agenda: "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."

In other words, the nation's top funder of the arts was abusing its position as custodian of taxpayer dollars to promote the Obama agenda. This is unprecedented.

As a former National Endowment for the Humanities official told me, "Nowhere, as far as I know, has there been even the suspicion that federal agencies under any administration have been enlisted by the administration to further specific legislation or legislative goals. And that's what happened. [They said,] 'We want to make art that will specifically advance Obama's agenda.' "

It may be a crime: Federal agencies can't use public funds to lobby. At the least, it sounds huge conflict-of-interest alarms. A government agency enlisting grantees and potential grantees to do partisan favors?

Have you noticed how the words, "unprecedented," "may be a crime," and "Obama administration" all seem to be showing up in the same press reports lately?

We really shouldn't worry too much about this. Judging by the quality of "art" put out by these people, if their lobbying efforts aren't any better, I doubt whether they'll have any impact at all, and it might have the opposite effect than they intend. After all, how effective can a sculpture of Barack Obama made of cow dung be in promoting the Obama agenda - even if it would be deliciously apropos?

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky