Did the Obama administration use the National Endowment for the Arts to try to gin up some support for health care and cap and trade in a recent conference call?
It surely looks like it. And if that’s the case, then the NEA appears to have violated the Hatch Act that prohibits government employees from soliciting political activity from people who get government grants.
You know, like the artists on the NEA conference call.
And that’s not the only law the administration and its non-profit allies appear to have broken.
The administration has a lot of questions to answer. This is, potentially, a bigger story than the ACORN scandal because it could lead to criminal charges against government officials.
Now, let me toss out a bit of speculation. I don’t have a lot of meat to hang on the bones, but I have a phone call in to someone who is really good at fleshing out stories, and perhaps he’ll be able to do a bit of digging himself.
Here’s a bit from Patterico’s post.
That question is answered by Nell Abernathy, the director of outreach for United We Serve, a federal agency run through the Corporation for National and Community Service (this is apparently the “corporation” to which Sergant referred). As you read Abernathy’s words, you can easily picture the wink and the nod as she explains that the federal agencies can’t explicitly advocate specific policy changes:
Yeah, I can address that a little bit, and the reason only a little bit is largely because in my role at a federal agency, I’m precluded from going too far down the specific steps what people can do to advocate. But we have to, for these legal reasons, remain really separate what we do here from what OFA is doing, and so they’re basically two separate goals with the same idea. We use the same techniques, organizing strategies, because basically they’re both run by people from the campaign. But Serve.gov and the United We Serve initiative is based on the direct service addressing needs through volunteering today bipartisan support ideas than OFA, which is obviously advocating for policy change on these specific issues.
Got that? It’s “two separate goals with the same idea” and “both run by people for the campaign” but [wink wink] we can’t advocate policy change because [wink wink] we’re a federal agency.
Where else have we heard about the Corporation for National and Community Service lately? Well, it’s the organization that administers AmeriCorps which recently hit the news as part of the ongoing Inspector General scandal (how many major scandals does that make in nine months?). The Inspector General for the CNCS was Gerald Walpin who was fired in early June, two months before the conference call.
Is there a connection between the firing of Walpin and the apparently illegal solicitations from the NEA to which United We Serve was a part? I can’t possibly say at this point, but I would think that it might be something into which a professional journalist might want to dig a while. Obviously, the CNCS has been up to some shenanigans and Walpin was fired because he opposed what the CNCS was doing. Did the White House fire him in order to put a more pliant IG, one who wouldn’t look too much into what United We Serve was doing, in place?
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. But perhaps not.
UPDATE: Linked by Michael van der Galien, who has an excellent recap and link fest.