As GOP Measures Drapes, Arts Action Fund IDs “Dirty Dozen” Senators

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Happy Election Day. Sit down. Read this.

We know that on the list of reasons why people vote for certain candidates, positions on the arts do not rank very high.

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If, however, you’re one of the enlightened few who understand how critical the creative economy is — that arts equals freedom; that personal expression embodies America — then the Arts Action Fund’s “report card” on the 100 members of the U.S. Senate is indispensable reading.

From the Fund’s website:

The Arts Action Fund graded the members of the U.S. Senate on their support for the arts just like on those report cards that you used to bring home – except we used criteria like voting in support of the arts, joining the Senate Arts Caucus, and more. Senators had three opportunities to vote on the arts during the past two years-from including the arts in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to supporting public art along our nation’s highways to ensuring museums received federal funds. Your senators had the chance to stand up for the arts and many of them failed.

By the way, 28 members of the Senate received an “F,” not 12. The 12 listed below are merely considered by the Arts Action Fund to be the worst of the worst, the baddest of the bad, the grimmest of the grim. May their reward occur at the ballot box.

The other 16 senators are Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Jim Risch of Idaho, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota, John Cornyn of Texas, Robert Byrd of West Virginia (deceased) and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

For the record, of the 28, 25 are Republicans. No Republican, moreover, got an A or an A+. The best-graded GOP-er is Thad Cochran of Mississippi, with a B+.

Republicans hate the arts and they hate artists. I’m not saying the Arts Action Fund is saying that. I’m saying that.

"My daddy, Sen. Tom Coburn, will cut your funding! Now listen to me sing opera."

Here are the awful 12:

Republican Tom Coburn, 62, of Oklahoma — which has more than 22,200 arts jobs — is the most anti-arts member of the Senate, his opera-singing daughter notwithstanding. (Who’d throw their child under the bus for politics?) As the Arts Action Fund puts it, Coburn authored “three anti-arts amendments during this [Congress]… Even the venue where he went to see his daughter perform in May 2008, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, received nearly $40 million in federal funding in 2008. If Coburn loves the opera as much as he says, he sure has a funny way of showing it.” Status: expected to win election in 2010 to his “second and final term.”

Republican Bob Corker, 58, of Kentucky — which has more than 54,000 arts jobs — “did not show his support for the arts the past two years,” as the Arts Action Fund bluntly phrases it. More blunt: the campaign manager for Corker’s predecessor in the Senate, Bill Frist, once called him “pond scum.” How creative. Status: up for releection to a second term in 2012.

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Republican Mike Crapo, 59, of Idaho — which has more than 11,300 arts jobs — “voiced his support for the arts and arts education in America many times,” says the Arts Action Fund. Trouble is, Crapo’s “voting record last year does not back up his statements in support of the arts and arts education.” Status: expected to win reelection to a third term in 2010.

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Republican John Ensign, 52, of Nevada — which has more than 24,400 arts jobs — who does not believe that Pell grants, Head Start or the National Endowment for the arts “stimulate the economy.” Ensign apparently believes an Americans for the Arts study of Clark County, Nevada, showing more than $204 million in economic activity due to the arts, is the work of Satan. Ensign, of course, is an adulterer. Status: up for reelection in 2012; open question whether he’ll run.

Democrat Russ Feingold, 57, of Wisconsin — which has more than 54,000 arts jobs — is the most dispiriting name on the Arts Action Fund’s “dirty dozen” list. Fifteen years ago, says the Fund, Feingold was quoted thus about funding for the National Endowment for the Arts: “I regard some recent attempts to cut funding for NEA as attempts at censorship and at silencing one part of {the} discussion.” Status: in a tight race for reelection to a fourth term.

Republican Lindsey Graham, 55, of South Carolina — which has more than 27,600 arts jobs — “has remained quiet on the subject letting his votes against the arts speak for themselves.” Status: up for reelection to a third term in 2014.

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Republican Judd Gregg, 63, of New Hampshire — which has more than 11,200 arts jobs — compiled an arts-unfriendly voting record during 2009 and 2010, says the Arts Action Fund, representing a reversal from previous years. Status: retiring after three terms, and likely to be replaced by Kelly Ayotte, who is not officially a teabagger but rather part of the plain old radical right.

Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, 67, of Texas — which has more than 200,600 arts jobs — seems to be ignoring the $3.05 billion impact of the North Texas creative economy, the Arts Action Fund says. “While the economic impact of the arts in the state is huge,” Sen. Hutchison’s support “isn’t.” Status: primaried Gov. Rick Perry this year, lost rather spectacularly, and now, despite earlier pledges to serve two terms, will finish her third term in 2012.

Republican George Lemieux, 41, of Florida — which has more than 185,000 arts jobs — stated in early 2009, according to the Arts Action Fund, that “if we want Florida to remain a premier tourist destination, we must continue to invest in the arts.” That was well before the GOP leadership teabagged him into submission. Status: Not running for reelection but likely to be replaced with Marco Rubio, a radical-right anti-arts teabagger.

Republican John McCain, 74, of Arizona — which has more than 47,700 arts jobs — “has done little to show leadership in support for the arts and arts education,” states the Arts Action Fund. Indeed, says the Fund, in 1999, McCain “sought to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts in its entirety.” Status: expected to win reelection to a fifth term in 2010.

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Republican Mitch McConnell, 68, of Kentucky — which has more than over 24,100 arts jobs — castigated the extra $50 million in stimulus money, states the Arts Action Fund, as “frivolous.” Status: not up for reelection until 2014.

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Republican David Vitter, 49, of Louisiana — which has more than 28,900 arts jobs — disputed the value of the extra $50 million in NEA stimulus funding, noted the Arts Action Fund, calling it “a big government bill — not a job creation bill.” Of course, the bill Vitter received for using a prostitution service wasn’t about curbing “big” government, either. Status: likely to win reelection in 2010.