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Elections and the Arts

November 6, 2012

Today's national elections will have an impact on the arts, and the matter has been considered by Americans for the Arts Action Fund, the political wing of a national service organization for the nonprofit arts. This is the group's checklist of the presidential candidates' arts policy positions, as reported in The Los Angeles Times:

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

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 percent to 28 percent 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.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].