Open Letter to Congress Regarding NEA Chairman's Statement

I’m writing in regards to Chairman Landesman’s response to Senator Enzi’s National Endowment for the Arts inquiry (below). I want to first thank Senator Enzi and the other Senators for taking the time to compose the inquiry. I also want to thank Senator Cornyn for his early inquiry on the August 10th conference call.



NEA_Statement

Although I appreciate Chairman Landesman’s actions in adding additional safeguards to protect the integrity of the NEA mission, I thought you should be aware of some of the details not mentioned in his response.

Chairman Landesman made no mention of a NEA grantee, Americans for the Arts, which was on the August 10th conference call and within 2 days of the meeting sent out a press release, endorsed by 16 other NEA grantees, urging Congress to pass legislation creating universal health care. That fact was first reported by the Washington Times.

Chairman Landesman also has claimed that the former Communications Director of the NEA, Yosi Sergant, acted “unilaterally and without the approval or authorization of then-Acting Chairman Patrice Walker Powell.” The Chairman, however, makes no mention of the fact that both the White House and The Corporation for National and Community Service were fully aware of the efforts of Sergant. The White House and The Corporation helped organize and plan the August 10th conference call with Sergant. This has been corroborated through statements made by the moderator of the call, Michael Skolnik, a presenter on the call, Thomas Bates of Rock the Vote, as well as through comments made by the Corporation and the White House during the conference call.

Finally, the Chairman states that the NEA never participated in an August 27th conference call. That is not entirely true. It is correct that they were not on the August 27th call. However, the NEA was scheduled to be on the call and was on the invite for the meeting, an invite that was written by the White House Office of Public Engagement – the same office involved in the August 10th call. The call was moderated by Americans for the Arts, which is the same NEA grantee mentioned in the above policy endorsement. My original article on the August 10th conference call was published 2 days before this August 27th meeting. The NEA ultimately canceled their involvement with this call.

I thought the Senators involved in this inquiry should be aware of the details absent in Chairman Landesman’s response. It appears that the White House was intimately involved in this politicized arts effort. I have recently published a detailed account of the events associated with the August 10th conference call, including some new information about a May 12th White House briefing, for those interested in further inquiries into the White House and The Corporation’s arts effort. The article can be read here.

In addition to sending you this response, I’ve also sent this to journalists and media that have been covering this story.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at any time.

Best,

Patrick Courrielche

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