Thursday, June 13, 2024

Nancy Pelosi Secures Millions for the Arts Including the NEA, NEH, Smithsonian Institute, But Why the Kennedy Center?


The agreed upon stimulus bill makes sure the arts will continue in this country at a very perilous time. Our hero, Nancy Pelosi, and her team secured millions for the National Endowment of the Arts ($75 million), the Humanities ($75 million), the Smithsonian (only $7.5 million), and, curiously the Kennedy Center ($25 million).

I say curiously because the Kennedy Center is one of the richest organizations around. It’s run by David Rubenstein of the shady Carlyle Group, the same people who basically own the Washington Monument. Deborah Rutter, the CEO of the Kennedy Center, is paid $1.3 million, and the total executive salaries total over $4 million. Is Pelosi’s money going to them? It seems like it.

The NEA and NEH allocations are certainly needed. But it’s curious since as I reported exclusively three weeks ago, Trump was planning a White House ceremony on March 20th to hand out Medals of Arts in both groups. No one ever knew who was getting the awards, and then they were cancelled because of the virus panic.

As for the Kennedy Center, according to their Form 990 for 2018, they finished that year with net assets of $436,141,800. But they also spent $34 million on a construction project on the site. Even with the description below, it’s unclear where this $25 million will go. I hope we do see an exact accounting of it some time soon. A lot stray coins get lost behind Carlyle couch cushions, you know.

Now with this new $25 million, maybe the Kennedy Center Honors can be given to some people who deserve it and have waited a long time including Dick van Dyke, Jane Fonda, R&B singers Sam Moore and Gladys Knight, Liza Minnelli, Denzel Washington, and so on. One thing that should be certain: “West Side Story” has got be the Center’s new “performance arts” choice this December, what with Steven Spielberg’s movie coming out then.

Here’s how the Kennedy Center portion of the bill reads:

“funds provided under this heading in this Act shall be made available to cover oper-13ating expenses required to ensure the continuity of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and its affiliates, including for employee compensation and benefits, grants, contracts, payments for rent or utilities, fees for artists or performers, information technology, and other administrative expenses: Provided further, That no later than October 31, 2020, the Board of Trustees of the Center shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and Senate that includes a detailed explanation of the distribution of the funds provided herein: Provided further, That such amount is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 1251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News