Judicial Watch • JW Obtains Documents Regarding NEA’s Controversial 8/10 Conference Call Encouraging Artists to Promote Obama Agenda

JW Obtains Documents Regarding NEA’s Controversial 8/10 Conference Call Encouraging Artists to Promote Obama Agenda

JW Obtains Documents Regarding NEA’s Controversial 8/10 Conference Call Encouraging Artists to Promote Obama Agenda

OCTOBER 29, 2009

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request 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, including emails involving disgraced former NEA Communications Director Yosi Sergant, who resigned over the scandal, and former actor 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. (The Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs the AmeriCorps program, also was represented during the call.)

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.”

“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.”

Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on September 28, 2009, seeking the following information:

  1. “Any and all correspondence between the White House and NEA Communications Director Yosi Sergant.”
  2. “Guidelines regarding the National Service Initiative.”
  3. “Guidelines regarding engaging in political activities.”
  4. “Guidelines and memos regarding the United We Serve campaign.”

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