At least six federal laws and regulations were violated when then–NEA communications director Yosi Sergant and White House Office of Public Engagement deputy director Buffy Wicks tried twisting the arms of artists and arts groups interested in getting federal arts grants to produce government propaganda.
To protect the scandal from expanding further, the White House threw Sergant under the bus, denied that they were involved issued new guidelines for the NEA and promised that it will never, ever, cross my heart, ever happen again.
obtained documents from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) related to the NEA's controversial August 10 conference call encouraging artists to create work that promotes the Obama agenda. The documents consist of internal NEA correspondence involving disgraced former NEA Communications Director Yosi Sergant, who resigned over the scandal, and former actor, star of House and current Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Kalpen Modi.
The emails newly document detailed White House involvement in the controversial conference call. They indicate that the call was part of a specific WH Arts Policy to use the NEA as propaganda tool:
The following are excerpts from the email correspondence:
- August 10, 2009, 10:23 am: Email from Yosi Sergant to Kalpen Modi: "[The call is] organized by me...I'd ask you to come on and give the exact spiel you gave on Saturday. Walk them through the WH Arts Policy. They won't know it. Then I will take them into United We Serve and the NEA."
- August 10, 2009, 10:29 am: Email from Kalpen Modi to Yosi Sergant: "Oy. This would be awesome to be a part of. Let me know if you think it's going long, or maybe I can get someone from here to do it if I can't because of the Social Security mtg."
- August 10, 2009, 11:04 am: Email from Kalpen Modi to Yosi Sergant: "Let me see if we can move Social Sec by a few mins. Agreed, it would be great to be on the call and helpful for us also."
- August 10, 2009, 1:37 pm: Email from Yosi Sergant to Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement: "We have an important call at 2pm for UWS (United We Serve) and the Arts with my peeps. Indie producers around the country. Kal can't join the call. Any chance you can hop on for 5 minutes and intro with Nellie and I?"
While the names of the individuals on the conference call were redacted due to "privacy concerns," some of their titles were disclosed, including: Green Blogger, Publisher, Musician, Music Writer, Film/Marketing, Actress/Director, Marketing, Magazine, Marketing/Magazine, Event Producer, and Actress. These individuals were described by Sergant in an email as a "rad group, who can really get stuff done."America, we are dealing with an administration that will do anything, break any rule to control the message to which the public is exposed. This is not a minor infraction it goes to the heart of our Democracy, should our government be allowed to use public funds to create propaganda to support their positions? The law says no. Lets see if the POTUS gets away with it.
"These emails shed new light on a very serious Obama administration scandal. The NEA is supposed to foster the arts, not serve as a propaganda machine for the Obama White House. We will continue our investigation so we can provide the truth to the American people about this scandal."