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SECOND UPDATE: Feinstein joins Senate majority in excluding arts from stimulus package

February 8, 2009 | 10:01 am

Feinstein

Maybe the arts just aren't that stimulating. At least that seems to be the sense of the U.S. Senate -- including California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who joined a wide majority Friday in passing an amendment "to ensure that taxpayer money is not lost on wasteful and non-stimulative projects" such as funding museums, theaters and art centers.

Americans for the Arts, which has been fighting for a crumb or two of the federal economic stimulus package to land on the table of nonprofit arts organizations, reported that its side took a drubbing to the tune of 73 votes to 24. The arts advocacy and lobbying organization labeled the amendment to the Senate's $827-billion stimulus proposal "egregious" in its exclusion of "any ... museum, theater [or] art center" from sharing in the bailout. At least the arts are in popular company: Also excluded are any "gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, community park ... and highway beautification project."

Americans for the Arts notes that among those voting for Muskogee, Okla., Republican Tom Coburn's amendment to freeze out the arts were, "surprisingly," Feinstein, Charles Schumer of New York, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. California's other senator, Barbara Boxer, voted against the amendment.

Americans for the Arts is organizing an e-mail campaign in hopes of erasing Coburn's amendment from the final draft of the stimulus bill that will be worked out between conferees from the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House version of the stimulus bill includes $50 million in direct grants to the arts, to be allocated via the National Endowment for the Arts. If you're keeping score, $50 million is about one seventeen-thousandth of $827 billion.

The arts organization and other advocates also are planning to run ads with the slogan "Arts = Jobs" this week in political journals.

UPDATE: Culture Monster asked Feinstein whether she agrees with the amendment's "statement of purpose," which paints the arts and some other potential uses of federal job-creation money as "wasteful" and "non-stimulative." The answer, said Gil Duran, a Feinstein spokesman, is "no," but that she thinks the economic recovery package "should emphasize projects that strengthen the nation's transportation and water infrastructure."

-- Mike Boehm

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story misspelled Dianne Feinstein's first name.

Photo: Dianne Feinstein

Photo Credit: Brian Baer/Associated Press

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