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?

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