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Thursday, October 23, 2008

When Arts Donation Starts to Look Like Bribery

posted by on October 23 at 16:02 PM

This story is a couple of days old, but worth reviving—Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and other defense-industry heavyweights have been dumping disproportionate sums into the symphony in Johnstown, PA (pop 24,000).

Why lil’ ol’ Johnsontown? Because, the New York Times article suggests, Representative John Murtha’s wife is a major booster for that symphony and Rep Murtha (D-PA) heads a Congressional committee that “hands out lucrative defense contracts.”

“She [Ms. Murtha] just loves knowing that we have an orchestra that is the quality of a larger city orchestra,” the symphony executive director, Patricia Hofscher, said of Mrs. Murtha. “Her friends have come here and been impressed by the quality of the orchestra in a geographic and economic region that, let’s face it, are not on the beaten path.”

For the first time, corporations and their lobbyists are being required to disclose donations they make to the favorite causes of House and Senate members, and a review of thousands of pages of records shows the extent — and lavishness — of this once hidden practice.

During the first six months of 2008, lobbyists, corporations and interest groups gave approximately $13 million to charities and nonprofit organizations in honor of more than 200 members of the House and Senate. The donations came from firms with numerous interests before the Congress, such as Wal-Mart, the Ford Motor Company, Kraft Foods and Pfizer, and were received by charities including prominent organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, as well as local groups controlled by members of Congress or those close to them.

This kind of corporate giving is actually an investment in the business’s future profits—I wonder how the new disclosure laws, coupled with the flailing economy (and, for Seattle, Boeing’s plunging stock prices) will put the screws to Seattle arts organizations?

(Read the rest at the NYT.)

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Why is the arts such a corrupt capitalist pig dog?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 23, 2008 4:38 PM

Maybe big corporations could help out with busting those bothersome theater unions, too! They're good at that sort of thing.

Posted by David | October 23, 2008 5:49 PM

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