UPDATE: The White House promises to sin no more, and the NEA blames the Watergate plumbers (sort of).
FURTHER UPDATE: The WSJ's James Taranto lowers the boom.
THIRD UPDATE: The Iowahawk has landed.
Two previous posts provided details about the Administration's attempted hijack of the National Endowment for the Arts. The story was broken by Patrick Courrielche at Big Hollywood, who described two conference calls where the White House and others tried to corral NEA grant-supported artists into advocating Obama's legislative agenda--and apparently succeeded in provoking an outpouring of pro-Administration art. I showed that creating "fake culture" for politics was unlawful and contrary to NEA's statutory mission. The whole plan borders on tyranny.
Particularly outrageous was the left's reaction: the mainstream media mostly ignored it (until George Will made it impossible) and progressive blogs denied it and/or characterized it as a conservative witch hunt. The NEA also denied the claims. "Hypocrisy," said reader OBH. Assistant Village Idiot in comments observed that "[b]elief that it's only wrong if you get caught is a characteristic symptom of sociopaths."
Well, deny this: Courrielche has released a full transcript and audio recordings of the first (August 10th) call.1 And the contents are damning: the Administration plainly was pushing grant-funded artists to produce partisan propaganda, and knew what it was doing was unlawful. Still, Daily Kos is quiet--or dismissive.
Yes, ACORN is being de-funded (despite Obama's distancing), and Van Jones resigned. But Attorney General Holder appointed a special prosecutor to re-open previously completed investigations of detainee interrogation. I still oppose special prosecutors (I prefer the Constitutional scheme: elections). Yet, during the Bush Administration, the NEA's transgression and cover-up already would have spawned a flock of impeachment bumper stickers (compare the (lawful) U.S. Attorney firings). Where's the outrage now?
And, as Nick Gillespie observes, let's have no more of the meme that artists are the "vanguard" of the people's will. Everyone knows the new vanguard is bloggers.
1 I note that the recording and publication of the call's contents raises legal issues. State law on the topic is simple: most states (and DC) require only the consent of the recording party, but Courrielche lives in California, a two-party consent state, requiring broader approval before recording. Federal law (see 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(d)) also adopts "one party consent." Yet, the legality of recording interstate telephone calls is so complicated that I once wrote a book chapter about it (sadly, now out of print). Although not free from doubt, Federal government-initiated conference calls are more likely to be subject to Federal, not state, law, meaning that only the consent of the recording party was required, making the recording lawful. The subsequent disclosure of the contents of the call, however, may be unauthorized.