Lobby group highlights how Obama and Romney stand on the arts

Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama at the Oct. 18 presidential debate. Americans for the Arts has issued a checklist highlighting their stands on arts funding issues.
(David Goldman / Associated Press)

For voters who think the presidential candidates’ agendas for the arts are worth considering along with what they propose for the economy, healthcare, taxes and all the rest, Americans for the Arts Action Fund, the political wing of a national service organization for the nonprofit arts, has issued a checklist based on its “newly compiled analysis of the presidential candidates’ arts policy positions.

It’s a list of seven yes or no questions, mainly pertaining to funding of various grant-making agencies and initiatives that support arts education and arts volunteering. “Yes” answers indicate support for the arts and “no” the opposite.

Democrats Barack Obama and Joseph Biden notched six yes and one no; Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, four no and three unknown.


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Several questions concerned the funding of federal cultural agencies and the independent Corporation for Public Broadcasting. One asks whether the candidates would resist cutting tax deductions for charitable giving -- often regarded as an important incentive for donations to nonprofit arts groups.

Also on the checklist is whether the candidates’ party platforms specifically pledge support for the arts and arts education -- a yes for the Democrats and a no for the GOP, which the Action Fund says is silent on that question.

The one no for the Democratic ticket was for Obama’s proposal to reduce the charitable tax deduction for people who earn more than $250,000 from 35% to 28% of their gifts’ value.

A Romney spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times recently that Romney does not advocate eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting but would reduce them by half (maybe Big Bird would have his feathers plucked but Ernie would be left unbothered?).

According to his campaign website, Romney envisions $600 million a year in savings from cuts to those three agencies and to federal support for the Legal Services Corporation, which funds representation in civil matters for people who can’t afford a lawyer. The arts checklist’s compilers tagged Romney with two no answers for that proposal -- one for the NEA and NEH cuts combined and one for the public broadcasting cut.


Another no for Romney was for proposing an aggregate ceiling on combined federal tax deductions for all purposes, including mortgages as well as charity -- which Americans for the Arts Action Fund thinks would hurt deductions for the arts. The fourth was for the GOP platform’s lack of a pledge of support for the arts and arts education.

Americans for the Arts Action Fund also recently updated its grades for every member of the U.S. House of Representatives, based on how they have responded to seven issues -- including whether they’ve joined the Congressional Arts Caucus, four votes on spending and their responses to two “dear colleague” letters among House members that sought support for arts funding. The organization’s Congressional Report Card also lists 2010 ratings for members of the U.S. Senate.

Voters looking for guidance in the showdown between San Fernando Valley Democrats Brad Sherman and Howard Berman won’t find a great deal of difference -- Sherman earned a 90 and Berman a 93, both in the A+ category.

A similar duel between sitting Democratic congresswomen, brought on by redistricting, is taking place in southern L.A. County between Janice Hahn of Los Angeles, whose rating is 70 -- a B+ -- and Laura Richardson of Long Beach, whose A+ grade, 98, trails only Northern California Democrat Lynn Woolsey (a score of 108) and Bob Filner of San Diego (100) within the California delegation in the U.S. House.

Woolsey is retiring from her seat when her term expires and Filner is running for mayor of San Diego.

For the record: an earlier version of this post said the candidate question checklist was compiled by Americans for the Arts; it was done by the organization’s political wing, a separate entity called Americans for the Arts Action Fund.



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