‘This is frivolous spending in the midst of a national emergency…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wisc., introduced a bill Tuesday to reverse $25 million in funding to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that lobbysists snuck into the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., supports the legislation along with 12 other Republicans.
“This is frivolous spending in the midst of a national emergency. Coronavirus requires a serious and targeted response. Some of my colleagues refused to allow a clean bill to move forward,” Steil said in a press release. “The Kennedy Center spending should have never made it into the final CARES Act. We must correct this mistake.”
Leaked audio from a conference call between Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter and hundreds of employees shows Rutter justifying layoffs despite receiving a $25 million bailout, Gateway Pundit reported.
As of March 31, the Kennedy Center had furloughed more than 1,100 employees, the Washington Post reported.
Rutter discussed how a lobbyist secured the special interest funding for the Kennedy Center.
“We are really grateful for this $25 million, but I will tell you that it does not keep us whole,” Rutter says in the beginning of the call. “In fact, the language that Tracy [Henke] (the lobbyist) worked so closely with all the appropriators on was clear that we needed this just to be able to reopen.”
She seems to predict that the Kennedy Center may be able to lobby for more funding.
“Fortunately, Tracy has really great relationships on the Hill,” Rutter said. “We have fantastic support from board leadership and all of those relationships and savvy, I will say, is what brought us that $25 million.”
Scalise praised Steil for introducing the legislation and excoriated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for putting extraneous appropriations ahead of the American people.
“While Americans are struggling to pay their bills or buy groceries, Speaker Pelosi continues to direct millions in relief funding to special interests,” Scalise said. “Speaker Pelosi and her allies demanded the CARES Act include $25 million for the Kennedy Center, yet just hours after President Trump signed the legislation, the Kennedy Center’s leadership shamefully stopped paying their National Symphony Orchestra musicians. This money should be rescinded and given back to the American people.”
As the musicians prepare for their last paycheck this week, Rutter, who will keep her job, complained to her staff.
“I’m sorry that I seem very stumbly and less articulate today, but this is a really really challenging time. I know it’s hard for you, I pray that you all are healthy and safe and I’m grateful for your commitment and I’m grateful for the work that you are doing from home.”
The source who leaked the audio explained his or her purpose was to expose the Kennedy Center.
“I am not a disgruntled employee who is upset about layoffs/furloughs,” the source said. “American business and nonprofits are facing tough and uncertain times. I recognize that this is pork. Congress passed an amazing package to assist Americans out of work, and we all need to work to have our own reserves, just like business and non-profits. I am an American who believes that nonprofits need to be sustaining, an American who finds it unconscionable that a nonprofit would state that they need the money for their 6 million/month operations—which is largely staff—to Congress, the press, and others, and then turn around and start to layoff and furlough all non-essential employees.”
On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida asked OMB acting director Russell Vought to request that President Trump submit a “rescission request” to Congress for the Kennedy Center funds and other “unneccessary or wasteful” spending in the virus relief law, such as other arts and humanities funding.