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HEARING ON

THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS

TUESDAY, MAY 13, 1997

The subcommittees met, pursuant to call, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Frank Riggs (chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families) and Hon. Peter Hoekstra (chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations), presiding.

Present: Representatives Riggs, Hoekstra, McKeon, Castle, Johnson, Scarborough, Kildee, Martinez, Mink, Roemer, Scott, and Kucinich.

Also Present: Representatives Clay and Peterson.

Staff Present: Derrick Max, Professional Staff Member; Kent Talbert, Professional Staff Member; Leigh Stadthaus, Oversight Associate; Andrea Weiss, Legislative Assistant; Gail Weiss, Staff Director; Cheryl Johnson, Legislative Advocate; Dr. June Harris, Education Coordinator; and Mary Huber, Staff Assistant.

Mr. Riggs. Good morning. Let me call to order this joint subcommittees' hearing on the National Endowment for the Arts and before the majority leader and Mr. Houghton go any further here, let me see if we can put limitations on the barter or exchange that was going on. Mr. Majority Leader, it's very good to have you here this morning. And in deference to your tight time schedule, we are going to defer our opening statements until after we have had the opportunity to receive your testimony. So thank you again for joining us, and you're recognized and may proceed, sir.

Mr. Armey. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

STATEMENT OF THE HON. DICK ARMEY, A CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS

Mr. Armey. Mr. Chairman, I'm here to talk about the National Endowment for the Arts. Let me ask you, Mr. Chairman, if my prepared remarks can be placed in the record.

The first thing I would like to point out, Mr. Chairman, when it comes to the arts as it comes to politics, my first value is freedom. As I look at the arts, I believe in the freedom of expression of the arts. I believe and would fight for anybody's right to freely express their version of art in any way they choose and then let that expression of art be judged by the marketplace of fear and public opinion. If the art truly has merit, the art will survive. If it truly does not have merit, it will find it has no patronage under a free market.

Furthermore, I believe in freely supporting the arts. And I'm here to tell you I'm prepared today to throw my dollar on the table and be the first to say that I will make a contribution in support of the arts, as I have done in my life. But as a symbolic gesture, I'll be happy to put my dollar on the table and invite everybody to freely support the arts, freely choose for yourself that which you enjoy and that which you appreciate, and freely decline to

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participate in the observation of that art which you find unenjoyable or unlikely to your taste.

The National Endowment for the Arts has become something of an institution and must be judged in that way. Should the federal government of the United States have a program and a process and a procedure by which they expend public monies in support of the arts?

My first reaction to that is that it flies in the face of freedom and it smacks at the outset of censorship. You would then have those people sponsored by the federal government making a determination of what is and what is not art worthy of support.

The defenders of the National Endowment for the Arts say that its value is in that it puts a seal of approval on art. Well, what does it put, then, on those applications, those grants that are not accepted or rejected? Should we have a federal government that determines that these applications in this group and this artistic activity is worthy of support and this is not?

In all of the debates that I have been in on the National Endowment for the Arts, beginning with my first Summer of 1985 as a member of Congress, I have had people accuse me of censorship in that I wanted to refrain from spending your money in this way.

The censorship does not begin with those of us who would refrain from supporting the arts through public expenditure and judging the arts through public processes. The censorship begins with those who would have the government of the United States determine what is or what is not art worthy of support.

There's a question, a very real question, in my mind when I look at the National Endowment for the Arts. Is it a constitutionally legitimate and necessary function of the federal government? More than most of the issues that we debate over that, the constitutionality of the National Endowment for the Arts was put to a test at the constitutional convention.

Our colleague Phil Crane from Illinois, the historian, can give us chapter and verse about who offered the motion and what was the vote that was taken at the constitutional convention. But our founding fathers at that convention when presented with the question “Shall we establish a federal endowment for the arts?” voted no. But we don't have to speculate as to what would have been their intention. We know what was their judgment at the time.

The other is necessary. Is it necessary to have federal funding for the arts where the American people spend over $10 billion a year in freely supporting the arts? The fact of the matter is, as I'm often reminded, the public expenditure on the arts is so little, but the public impact on the arts is so great. And I say that impact is not desirable. It is negative.

When we're working as hard as we are to cut the budget to get into balance, can we afford this? My family and I have been through rigorous times. We have had to cut back on this part of the budget or the other part of the budget. And I have to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, as is I guess the case for most families, when you start weighing the priorities and the needs of your family and you have to cut back in your budget, I'm afraid entertainment goes first. And you end up making more of your own entertainment.

The National Endowment for the Arts has a poor record of being willing to submit itself to the accountability of oversight by the Congress of the United States. Their attitude has been bad. If we would ever allow anyone from the Pentagon to show the disdain for the oversight process as has been shown in the ten years I've been here by the National Endowment for the Arts, the very same proponents of the National Endowment would chastise us for being lax in oversight.

The National Endowment has a record of not being forthcoming, of being arrogant, and of telling us that it is none of our business what they do with the taxpayers' money. And I'm offended by that attitude and have been

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