NEA Chairman Uses Government Website to Express ‘Disappointment’ With Trump Budget Proposal

By Terence P. Jeffrey | March 16, 2017 | 4:01 PM EDT

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu speaking at the National Press Club on Sept. 28, 2015. (Screen Capture)

(CNSNews.com) - National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu, a federal employee appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014, used the homepage of the NEA’s government website to express “disappointment” with President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint, which was released by the White House today.

Trump’s blueprint calls for eliminating funding for the NEA.

The federal government spent $137 million on the NEA in fiscal 2014, $146 million in fiscal 2015, and $149 million in fiscal 2016, according to Monthly Treasury Statements.

Visitors clicking from a Google search onto the NEA’s federal government website (www.arts.gov) this afternoon were greeted by a special page featuring a “Statement from National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu.”

Visitors clicking from a Google search to the www.arts.gov website were greeted by this landing page.

Chu’s statement also rotated through the top of the NEA’s regular homepage along with five other items.

“Today we learned that the President’s FY 2018 budget blueprint proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the arts,” said Chu’s statement.

“We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation,” said Chu’s statement posted on the government website.

After noting that “the President’s budget request is a first step in a very long budget process” and that the “NEA continues to operate as usual and will do so until a new budget is enacted,” Chu used the NEA website to say she expects debate about the president’s plan to eliminate funding for the NEA.

The regular NEA homepage featured Chu's statement this way.

Chu also noted that as a government agency, the NEA could not “engage in advocacy.”

“We expect this news to be an active topic of discussion among individuals and organizations that advocate for the arts,” Chu said. “As a federal government agency, the NEA cannot engage in advocacy, either directly or indirectly. We will, however, continue our practice of educating about the NEA’s vital role in serving our nation’s communities.”

An NEA spokesperson confirmed to CNSNews.com by telephone that the www.arts.gov website on which Chu’s statement was posted is a federal government website and that Chu is a government employee.

CNSNews.com also asked the spokesperson by email why it is ethical for a federal employee to use a government website to express “disappointment” with the president’s budget proposal.

“The agency is in compliance with federal ethics rules,” NEA Public Affairs Specialist Elizabeth Auclair responded by email.

Prior to becoming NEA chairman, Chu had been president of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo. Obama nominated her for the NEA position on Feb. 13, 2014.

In a report on her nomination, the Washington Post noted her “fundraising prowess.”

“Since 2006, Chu has been president of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City where she oversaw completion the sprawling center—a $326 million project finished in 2011 using private funds,” the Post reported.

“Chu, though, has a reputation for fundraising prowess and executing major projects in times of fiscal uncertainty,” the Post said.

Chu was confirmed by the Senate without a roll call vote on June 12, 2014.

As noted by a posting on the NEA website, Chu’s confirmation was applauded by both of the senators from her home state of Missouri.

“She’s spent years enriching the culture and strengthening the business community in Kansas City, and I’m looking forward to seeing her bring that same leadership to the national stage,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.).

“I’m glad the Senate confirmed Dr. Chu’s nomination as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts today," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R.-Mo.). "I was impressed by her successful oversight of the more than $400 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts project and I enjoyed visiting with her in Kansas City several weeks ago. I have no doubt Dr. Chu will serve as a valuable asset to the NEA."