House and Senate GOP leaders call for oversight hearing and explanations on NEA controversy

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The House Committee on Education and Labor released the following:

Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the top Republican on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, is calling for a congressional oversight hearing into allegations that officials with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the White House inappropriately used federal resources to promote a political and legislative agenda. Kline made his request in a letter delivered yesterday to the committee’s Chairman, Rep. George Miller (D-CA).

“The stated role of the NEA is to increase access to the arts and arts education, not to promote any legislative agenda,” Kline wrote. “This is also an inappropriate use of the NEA’s authority as a grant maker, and could be interpreted by some grant recipients as coercion to promote a political agenda.”

 Kline’s call for a hearing comes in response to revelations that NEA, CNCS, and White House officials convened a conference call on August 10th during which select artists were allegedly encouraged to create art that would support the President’s agenda. News outlets reported yesterday that the White House is taking steps to prevent such a call from happening again, acknowledging the troubling appearance of this use of taxpayer dollars.

A copy of Kline’s letter can be found here.

Congressman Kline’s announcement comes on the heels of ranking member of the Senate’s Health, Labor, and Pensions(HELP) Committee Senator Mike Enzi’s (R-Wyo.) release “requesting an explanation regarding possible violations of federal law at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  Enzi and his colleagues sent the request to NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman.” :

In the letter delivered today the Senators questioned the possibility of “taxpayer dollars to engage in lobbying activities to promote the President’s health care legislative agenda and other legislative priorities” during several August conference calls with NEA grant recipients and community stakeholders. 

The letter also raises serious questions regarding how the NEA’s participation in these calls may have violated federal criminal restrictions on lobbying Congress, the Hatch Act, appropriations restrictions on spending funds for such purposes and possible contradictions with the entity’s mission under its authorizing statute. 

“…The promotion to NEA grant recipients of topics that are at the top of the President’s legislative agenda and urging a call to action creates a serious conflict of interest,” wrote the Senators. 

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About the Author
Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket, a former Opinion Blogger/Editor of The Watercooler, was associate producer for the Media Research Center, a content producer for Robin Quivers of "The Howard Stern Show" on Sirius satellite radio and a production assistant and copy writer at MTV.

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