Advocacy & Arts: Have You Seen the Ads?

Posted by Kate McClanahan, May 05, 2017 0 comments

Have you noticed some deep pastel, full-page ads in your local papers?

These simply worded, well-timed and well-placed, all-caps ads are making a statement—and getting results. They are part of an Americans for the Arts’ visibility campaign to #SAVEtheNEA. One tool (of many) to impact policy.

Why are we running these ads? Does the NEA need saving? 

A federal, independent, grant-making agency first formed in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is staring down a proposal from President Trump to eliminate the agency in FY 2018. This is part of President Trump’s abbreviated budget request that he sent to Congress this past March. His proposal would impact funds beginning on October 1, 2017. Congress is reviewing this request now.

These termination ideas aren’t anything new—but now that the federal government is under one-party control, the threat is more substantial.

The prominent back page of The Hill the day after the President’s first speech to Congress.

As you might imagine, though, elected leaders also care deeply about the areas they represent and the views of their constituents who elect them every few years. They may not agree with what they think, but they do care to know what they think—and it is certainly one key factor that weighs on how they cast their votes, what issues they focus on, and what areas they deepen their knowledge. Since we know that ads:

they are one great way to invite data and impact stories that can lead to policy change. And, we know that legislators read their local newspapers, so the message gets through.

The ad as run in sunny Florida, a favorite destination of President Trump and his famed Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.

To be clear, the #SAVEtheNEA ad campaign is just one response to President Trump’s advisors recommending termination of the NEA, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the end of federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). President Trump formally solidified these recommendations in his abbreviated FY 2018 budget that he sent to Congress on March 16, which called for the termination of these agencies beginning in FY 2018.

And so, the day after President Trump’s first speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, when all on Capitol Hill tend to grab a paper, the back page of The Hill was flush with the statement, “The arts put America to work.” Using the latest U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, the message was clear—and easy to remember. 

And then, the ads kept popping up. Sometimes in the Palm Beach Daily News serving Palm Beach, Florida: Home of President Trump’s “Winter White House.” Sometimes in a favorite paper of the President, the New York Post and its famed “Page Six” gossip, serving New York City: Home of Trump Tower.

Featured ad next to the famous Page Six gossip column of the NY Post, serving New York City and home of Trump Tower, the residence of the First Lady.

These ads are all part of a series—a series that is paying dividends.

A next wave of ads is running this Sunday, May 7. They will pop up in 10 papers across the country, just as the U.S. House of Representatives takes a one-week recess to return to their home districts for local meetings and events.

These ads will feature specific NEA grant data and state matching grant numbers, showcasing this federal-state partnership which supports tens of thousands of grants in communities all throughout the U.S. These ads will show specific numbers and list the names of some local organizations receiving recent, direct NEA federal grants to support work in communities these members of Congress represent. Members of Congress will notice them and, more importantly, constituents will notice them.

Ad that will run May 7 in The News-Herald, home of Lake County, Ohio, and the congressional district of Rep. David Joyce, a U.S. House appropriator. (Click to view full size.)

Which newspapers will see ads for 10 members of Congress?

Glad you asked! They will show up in areas where key members of Congress just came together to craft a really unprecedented, bipartisan “omnibus” appropriations package approving funding for federal programs and agencies for FY 2017. The same members who will be key in writing the next FY 2018 bill, whose work is already underway.

What makes a member “key” in this case?

They serve on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, especially its smaller Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee that is responsible for making the first U.S. House proposal for funding levels for the NEA. The appropriation figures that emerge from the committees, while not a guarantee, are extremely important in the overall appropriations process. For instance, the $2 million increase to the NEA in the FY 2017 budget Congress has now passed emerged from this subcommittee. They are also all members of the majority party—the Republican Party—which is under the most pressure to meet the President’s request, or alternatively, to be able to successfully counter his beliefs—which as they turn out, might not even be his own: The idea to cut arts funding is instead an old, dusty idea from the Heritage Foundation, which is eager to enact its vision now with one-party control in the federal government. So, the dynamics are real and challenging—but the energy and passion of arts advocates are also unwavering. Given the solid rejection of President Trump’s proposed $15 million rescission in the aforementioned omnibus bill, there is reason to validate the impact of united arts advocates.

Ads that ran in three prominent Capitol Hill newspapers on Arts Advocacy Day, March 21, 2017.

Indeed, the omnibus is a return to bipartisan, appropriator-led work. As U.S. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey put it, “This is not the bill that any of us would have written individually—it is the product of compromise.” And, it passed with flying colors 309-118 in the U.S. House, after months of gridlock, delays, extensions, and toying with possible partial government shutdowns. In the end, many agencies saw their budget requests met. In many cases, that compromise resulted in approving funding levels that were last requested by President Obama, including the funding for the NEA.

How is the NEA faring in this latest funding work?

Under the bipartisan omnibus agreement, the NEA will be receiving increased funding—meeting the levels passed by the U.S. House last July and requested by President Obama. This amounts to a funding increase of nearly $2 million over current levels to almost $150 million for the agency until the fiscal year runs out on September 30. It also squarely rejects the tacked-on $15 million rescission that President Trump proposed for the NEA in his request to Congress early this year.

What’s next?

Congress will now turn to President Trump’s request to fully terminate the agency beginning in FY 2018, which begins on October 1, 2017.

Will Congress agree?

Not if arts advocates continue to make the case and stand up and speak out.

Will you join us?

Find more resources on our Arts Mobilization Center

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