National Editorial: Using tax money to push president’s agenda

Buried in the interior appropriations bill headed to President Barack Obama’s desk is a big spending increase for a controversial agency that his White House staff aims to use as artistic cover for creating political propaganda. National Endowment for the Arts spending goes from $155 million to $167.5 million, the most since the Clinton administration.

A mere $12 million in a budget with $1.4 trillion in deficits might seem trifling. But documents obtained by Judicial Watch via a Freedom of Information Act request leave no doubt that Obama aides meant to put those tax dollars to work paying “artists” to create posters and other propaganda paraphernalia supporting the Obama agenda.

As The Washington Examiner reported Friday, the documents made public by Judicial Watch include a series of e-mails from White House Associate Director of Public Engagement Kalpen Modi, whose boss is Valerie Jarrett, director of the Office of Public Engagement and a close Obama confidant. Modi worked with then-NEA Communications Director Yosif Sargant planning an Aug. 10 telephone conference call hosted by Sargant.

The purpose of the call, moderator Michael Skolnik said at the outset, was to encourage participants “to get involved in things that we’re passionate about, as we did during the campaign, but continue to get involved in those things, to support the president’s initiatives.” Skolnik, political director for hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, told conference participants that he was asked “by people in the White House and folks in the NEA” to organize the call, which was joined by officials representing 21 arts groups around the country.

Judicial Watch unearthed e-mails between Sargant, Modi and Buffi Wicks, deputy director of the White House Public Engagement Office. Wicks campaigned for Obama in Missouri in 2008 and before that worked for an ACORN-like activist group known as Wake-Up Wal-Mart that was funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Use of government time, equipment and facilities in planning the conference call may violate the Anti-Lobbying Act, which says “no part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner a member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation.”

Sargant resigned from the NEA following disclosure of the Aug. 10 conference call. Why are Modi and Wicks still on the White House payroll?

editorialsOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The City requires the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a construction project site. <ins>(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
<ins></ins>
Permits proposed for haulers of construction debris to achieve zero-waste

San Francisco plans to tighten regulations on the disposal of construction and… Continue reading

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/TNS)
Newsom says California will review FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines before releasing to public

By Taryn Luna Los Angeles Times California will review the safety of… Continue reading

Rachael Tanner, left, testifies virtually before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee Monday, October 19, 2020. (SFGOV courtesy art)
Rachael Tanner set to become SF’s next Planning Commissioner

Rachael Tanner is expected to serve as the newest member of the… Continue reading

People exercise along the closed Great Highway on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Could the Great Highway become a great city park?

Permanent closure would require extensive public outreach, safety and traffic management plans

Flames and smoke overtake a tree as the LNU Lightning Complex fire spreads in Fairfield, California on August 19, 2020. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
Many wildfires near full containment, but officials fear continuing hot weather

By Molly Burke The Sacramento Bee Thousands of firefighters continue to battle… Continue reading

Most Read