Your tax dollars at work — a PR firm that did hits on Palin was invited to the NEA conference

Who needs to go looking for conspiracies when the funny stuff is staring you right in the face?  Ace noticed that the same PR firm that did incredibly sleazy YouTube attacks on Sarah Palin during the election cycle was an invited attendee at the now-infamous NEA phone call.  Ace has all the right information and asks all the right questions.

I’m glad someone’s paying attention today, BTW.  This was one of those days where every single thing I planned didn’t work out.  My day just veered totally out of control and, here it is, almost 9:00, and I’m jamming on the project I confidently anticipated completing by about 3:00.  Sigh….

Why the NEA story is important

Patterico explains:

Why This Story Is Important

It would be a mistake to dismiss this story as unimportant because there is no jaw-dropping angle like ACORN staffers’ apparent complicity in trafficking in under-age children for prostitution. Consider what is happening: the NEA is encouraging artists to create propaganda for a president’s policy initiatives. This is a corrosive precedent — and what’s more, it illustrates the overarching danger of the Obama administration: government, by increasingly taking over various aspects of American society, threatens to bend society to the will of a single man.

It would also be a mistake to dismiss the story as old just because the basic contours of the story were revealed in August. Since then, the NEA and the Obama administration have denied pursuing a legislative agenda in the call; today it is clear that they lied. What’s more, they tried to cover it up with the reassignment of Sergant. And the media played right along, for the most part acting as though that was the end of it.

The most obviously interesting question in all this going forward is whether laws were broken with this call.

Regardless of the answer to that question, this is an important story with implications that go beyond the NEA. Here’s the bottom line. Before today, Obama took over car companies and used his power over those companies to further his agenda of producing cars he believed consumers should own. Today, he increases government power over artists, to harness their creative powers to the “service” of his political agenda. What will come tomorrow, when Our Leader takes over health care, new industries, or God knows what else?

The key points in the NEA phone call

I thought I’d assemble for you in one place the key points in the NEA phone call, showing that the White House itself directed the call’s organizers to use the National Endowment for the Arts (a publicly funded government organization) as a means to fund like-minded artists to create political propaganda for the benefit of the President’s partisan political positions.  You can find the whole transcript here, with the relevant parts highlighted.  All emphasized and interlineated text is mine.


[7:7-15]  SKOLNIK [the call’s host]:  This is Mike Skolnik.  I am based in New York.  I am a film maker for the past ten years but currently serve as the political director for Russell Simmons.  [From Wikipedia:  “Russell Wendell Simmons (born October 4, 1957 in Queens, New York), is an American entrepreneur, the co-founder, with Rick Rubin, of the pioneering hip-hop label Def Jam, founder of another label, Russell Simmons Music Group, and creator of the clothing fashion line Phat Farm.”  I leave you to figure out why he needs as political director.]

I have been asked by folks in the White House and folks in the NEA about a month ago in a conversation that was had.  We had the idea that I would help bring together the independent artists community around the country. [Either Skolnik is a self-serving liar trying to puff up his credentials or he’s actually stating a fact:  the White House initiated this call.  Given the it is an official NEA call, there’s reason to believe the statement is true.]


[8:2-9:18] SKOLNIK:  I want to start off by saying a few things, and then we will have some people in Washington from the NEA and United We Serve speak to us, and we’ll have a chance for questions and comments and discussions afterwards.  I think this it’s [sic] clear, and I heard somebody from Shepard Fairey’s team [Shepard Fairey, of course, created the famous “HOPE” poster, the most successful political poster in modern times] introduce themselves, and I think Shepard and the Hope poster obviously is a great example [a great example of using art for political purposes?], but it’s clear as an independent art community as artists and thinkers and tastemakers and marketers and visionaries on this call, the role that we played during the campaign for the president and also during his first 200 some odd days of his presidency and the president has a clear arts agenda and has been very supportive of using art and supporting art in creative ways to talk about some of the issues that we face here in our country and also to engage people.  [That was one of the most disorganized, run-on sentences I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, but the message is clear:  we artists helped the president get elected, and he’s now using our skills to push his agenda on the country.]

And I think all of us who are on this phone call were selected for a reason [one wonders who did the selecting?], and you are the ones that lead by example in your communities.  You are the thought leaders.  [And here I thought they were just artists.]  You are the ones that, if you create a piece of art or promote a piece of art or create a campaign for a company, and tell our country and our young people sort of what to do and what to be in to; and what’s cool and what’s not cool. [Translation:  You have the power to mold young minds so that they embrace the President’s agenda.]

And so I’m hoping that through this group and the goal of all this and the goal of this phone call, is through this group that we can create a stronger community amongst ourselves to get involved in things that we passionate about as we did during the campaign but continue to get involved in those things, to support some of the president’s initiatives, but also to do things that we are passionate about and to push the president and push his administration.  [Is this a good time to remind all of you again that the NEA, as a publicly funded organization, is supposed to be non-partisan?  Is it also a good time to remind you that, at the call’s beginning, Skolnik was clear that the impetus for this call came from within the White House?]

And the first thing that I thought we could all come together on and begin this colletive of arts around the country was United We Serve or is United We Serve [sic]  [United We Serve is the White House supervised, nationalized version of community organizing], and United We Serve is the president’s call to the country to get engaged in meaningful community service. . . .


[10:9-19]  NELL ABERNATHY [“outreach director” for United We Serve]:  We actually were lucky enough to get someone who I’m going to introduce first which is Buffy Wicks with the Office of Public Engagement. who I’m sure many of you know from the campaign.  [Wicks also has strong ACORN and SEIU connections, which might be another story, but isn’t, because the SEIU, ACORN and the Obama administration are rapidly proving themselves to be one and the same.  Also, what’s this “campaign” talk?  Isn’t this supposed to be about ART?]  She was a huge champion of getting the arts community involved on the campaign and also has been one of the people who spearheaded this initiative from the beginning.


[10:23-12:21]  WICKS:  I’m ‘m honored to be on the call, and I just, you  know, it’s been a long road I know for a lot of us, and we’re really just beginning.  I, first of all, want to thank everyone for being on the call and really just a deep, deep appreciation for all the work that you all put into the campaign for the two plus years that we all worked together.  [In other words, this is not an ordinary NEA call.  This is a recovening of seasoned campaign operatives on the NEA’s — read:  the taxpayers’ — dime.]  I was the field director in California so I hear my L.A. peeps out there, so it’s exciting to hear those voices.

And, you know, we won and that’s exciting, and now we have to take all that energy and make it really meaningful.  I’m in the White House now [another sign that the White House is the unseen hand directing this use of public funds for partisan purposes] and what I’ve learned over these first — we just had our 200 mark on Saturday, which sounds crazy, is that it’s — that change does not come easy and, you know, when then Candidate Obama would say that it’s like, yeah, I know change doesn’t come easy [I can’t figure out here who is more banal and inarticulate:  Wicks or Obama], but then now that I’m actually in the White House and working towards furthering this agenda, this very aggressive agenda, I’m really realizing that, and I’m also appreciative of the way in which we did win and the strategy that the campaign shows, which is really to engage people at a local level and to engage them in the process, because we need them and we need you, and we’re going to need your help, and we’re going to come at you with some specific asks here. [Translation:  we have specific White House dictated propaganda directives for you, the publicly funded artist community of America.]

But we know that you guys are ready for it and eager to participate, so one we want to thank you, and two, I hope you guys are ready.  So I’m at the Office of Public Engagement here at the White House.  Our office does a lot of outreach to communities all across the country either by constituency groups or by issue. We have about 20 folks and we work under Valerie Jarrett, she’s one of our fantastic leaders and Tina Chen.  [To refresh your recollection, Valerie Jarrett is Obama’s consigliere and, one suspects, the woman who really makes up this petticoat government.]  And so we’re really here at your disposal and we want to be helpful to you.  And as part of my role here is working on service, and so when we were thinking about how do we take a lot of this energy that’s out there, how do we translate folks who have just been engaged in electoral politics and engage them in really the process of governing, of being part of this administration in a little bit of a different way because politics is one thing and governing is something totally separate, we really saw service as the platform by which we can do that.   [Let me say here again:  what makes this little speech so very wrong is that the vehicle being used for it is an ostensibly non-partisan, publicly funded organization meant to help art reach the masses.  When I was growing up, that meant opera, ballet and old canvases.  Now it means using Progressive trend-setters to get public money to create government propaganda.]


[13:3-9] WICKS [and the heads-up here is that she’s spelling out the fact that United We Serve is not about strengthening America, but is about pushing a Leftist agenda]:  We wanted folks to connect  with local nonprofit organizations in their  community.  We wanted them to connect with local city council members or local elected officials.  We wanted them to connect with federal agencies, with labor unions, progressive groups, face groups, women’s groups, you name it.

[More to follow as I have the time.]

The story to watch this morning, folks, is the developing one about the NEA *UPDATED*

Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government started it this morning with a post describing the now infamous NEA conference call that used tax payer funds to get NEA supported artists to prepare Obama propaganda.

That is not the end of the story.  To give you background, the Media Mythbusters wiki has a whole page set up regarding the NEA kerfuffle.  I can guarantee you that, if you watch this page, it will grow.

Michelle Malkin has more details about this breaking scandal, as well as a request to you, the public, for help.

Lastly, keep an eye on Lucianne.

Folks, I have it on very good authority that you will want to watch this story as it develops.  It doesn’t have the sex and crime aspects that forced the media at least to blink on the ACORN story, but reputable scuttlebutt is that something is going on here.  I don’t know what, but something.  Something significant.

As for me, I’ll try to keep this story updated as the day goes by, but I’m peripheral, and can mostly serve as a road map to the real locations.

UPDATE:  And here it is, from Big Hollywood:

Should the National Endowment for the Arts encourage artists to create art on issues being vehemently debated nationally?

That is the question that I set out to discuss a little over three weeks ago when I wrote an article on Big Hollywood entitled The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion?

The question still requires debate but the facts do not.

The NEA and the White House did encourage a handpicked, pro-Obama arts group to address politically controversial issues under contentious national debate. That fact is irrefutable.

Read the rest here — it’s long, but everything is worth considering, because it represents a sea change in administration use of public funds.  This the first time every that an administration has used your tax dollars to advance a partisan agenda, through an ostensibly non-partisan, government funded forum.  This makes it different from something like PBS and NPR.  Although both are wildly left in their politics, that Leftism arises from the biases of the employees themselves.  What we have with this NEA scandal is something entirely new:  the government itself directing the Leftism of a publicly funded organization.

For more information and analysis, check out Big Hollywood’s sister site, Big Government, which has extensive blogging analysis on the implications of the NEA conference call.

UPDATE II:  James Taranto has an admirably neat summary of the scandal.