NEA “Scandal”: Secretly Taped Conversation Appears to Have Violated State Laws

Filmmaker and art community consultant Patrick Courrielche  has made a quite a splash on conservative talk shows by releasing audio clips and transcripts of a conference call that occurred August 10. The purpose of call, which was attended by artists, NEA staff, White House Office of Public Engagement and members of United We Serve, was to discuss engaging communities in the ideas of service, health care, education, and energy and the environment through the use of art.

In his interviews with Glenn Beck, Dennis Miller, and Fox Business News and in his blogging about this, Patrick Courrielche has not discussed how he came to have the recorded conversations, which may be a way of invoking his right to self-protection, since recording that call was illegal in several states where the participants are based.

Courrielche is listed on the United We Serve email list obtained by the Washington Times. He has stated that he was invited to participate in the call, and has blogged about the call, in one post referring to it as “my call,” thus implying he was present on the call. 

On Thursday August 6th, I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts to attend a conference call scheduled for Monday August 10th hosted by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve… Discussed throughout the conference call… Throughout the conversation my inner dialogue was firing away questions so fast that the NRA would’ve been envious.

ABC News reports that Courrielche "secretly recorded" the call. 

Nowhere in the transcripts Courrielche has posted is there a reference to the call being recorded by United We Serve, by the NEA or by anyone else.  Informed or implied consent to record and disseminate the call was not given by any of the participants.

Courrielche’s business is listed in Los Angeles, California; the business has a Los Angeles-based phone number. At least fifteen of the participants were calling in from California, which has very strict eavesdropping and communication interception laws, stating that all parties on the call must be informed and aware that the call is being recorded.

Three callers were from Pennsylvania. Under that state’s current statutory language, consent of all parties is required to tape a conversation. Illinois law states that eavesdropping device cannot be used to record or overhear a conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation. Three participants were from Illinois.

Again no one asked for consent to record the call nor was consent given. To secretly record a conference call and then disseminate the information is clearly reprehensible and unethical at a minimum. It is an "ends justifies the means" mentality and a cavalier approach to the law that marked the practices of the previous administration.  Whether Courrielche will be prosecuted for violating California law remains to be seen, but committing a crime in pursuit of exposing what possibly, just maybe, could be some kind of a violation is no small thing.

35 Responses to "NEA “Scandal”: Secretly Taped Conversation Appears to Have Violated State Laws"
AZ Matt | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:20 pm 1

Naughty boy! So what was interesting in this tape that wingnuts are interested in hearing about? I know nothing of this person.


tbsa | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:24 pm 2

Ruh roh….


solerso | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:29 pm 3

wow. “glen beck,dennis miller, and fox business” THOSE are some heavy hitters……isnt it ironic that miller was NOT funny until he got serious? the mark of a true loser


punaise | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:29 pm 4

“this taper will self-destruct in five seconds.”


Badwater | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:34 pm 5

Hopefully, IOKIYAR no longer applies with Decider Bush gone and Courrielche spends lots of years and lots of money involved in legal issues from his stunt.


ThingsComeUndone | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:35 pm 6

Whether Courrielche will be prosecuted for violating California law remains to be seen, but committing a crime in pursuit of exposing what possibly, just maybe, could be some kind of a violation is no small thing.

Why is it GOPers maybe Prosecuted? You break the law you get caught you do the time!


ThingsComeUndone | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:36 pm 7

Dennis Miller has a show again didn’t his last one tank? When was the last time Dennis was funny?


newtonusr | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:39 pm 8

When was the last time Dennis was funny?

When was the last time it rained frogs?


tw3k | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:40 pm 9

Ars longa, vita brevis!


tw3k | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:42 pm 10

That was funnier than Dennis


newtonusr | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:44 pm 11
In response to tw3k @ 10

True. Same old ’splat’ sounds.
But the frogs were harder on the car insurance.


AZ Matt | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:44 pm 12

NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman sends the following statement to HuffPost:

As chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, I would like to clarify the issues concerning an August conference call in which an NEA employee participated.

Here are the facts.

Fact 1: The former NEA Director of Communications helped organize and participated in an August 10th conference call to introduce members of the arts community to United We Serve and to provide them with information on how the Corporation for National and Community Service can assist groups interested in sponsoring service projects or having their members volunteer on other projects.

Fact 2: The former NEA Director of Communications acted unilaterally and without the approval or authorization of then-Acting Chairman Patrice Walker Powell.

Fact 3: This call was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false. Rather, the call was to inform members of the arts community of an opportunity to become involved in volunteerism.

Fact 4: Some of the language used by the former NEA Director of Communications was, unfortunately, not appropriate and did not reflect the position of the NEA. This employee has been relieved of his duties as director of communications.

Fact 5: This call was completely unrelated to NEA’s grantmaking, which is highly regarded for its independence and integrity. Artistic quality, excellence and merit are the guidelines for decision-making; favoritism or political affiliation plays no role in NEA grantmaking.

Fact 6: The NEA is a successful, independent federal agency that has supported the best of the arts and arts education for nearly 45 years. We take our responsibility to the American public very seriously and are committed to upholding this public trust.

Although my time here has been brief – in fact I arrived at the agency on August 11th the day after the conference call – I am proud to lead the National Endowment for the Arts, proud to work with its capable and energetic staff, and proud to play a role in enhancing the quality of life for the people of our great nation


TarheelDem | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:53 pm 13

Some of the language used by the former NEA Director of Communications was, unfortunately, not appropriate and did not reflect the position of the NEA.

And what exactly did he say that was inappropriate enough to be demoted as Director of Communication?

And why was getting the then-Acting Chairman’s signoff such a big deal?


prostratedragon | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:55 pm 14
In response to newtonusr @ 8

That’s happened.


Teddy Partridge | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:56 pm 15

Because I don’t listen to or watch the right-wing propaganda organs in American, I have yet to fully understand what happened here. What was said that caused the Director of Communications to be relieved of his duties? Isn’t the point of this conference call to alert potential grant recipients how to get grants? What could possibly be wrong with that?

On the other hand, the lawbreaking you lay out on the part of the “investigator” who has exposed this “scandal” is quite clear and unassailable. I hope he goes to jail for a long time in each jurisdiction where he broke the law: secret eavesdropping simply cannot be permitted in America.

Right?


JugOPunch | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:56 pm 16
In response to ThingsComeUndone @ 7

Since when is giving wedgies funny?


RieszFischer | Tuesday September 22, 2009 04:58 pm 17

The same thing will happen to him as happened to Linda Tripp: Nothing.

IOKIYAR


jayt | Tuesday September 22, 2009 05:12 pm 18

Republicans need permission to tape calls?

huh.

I check my mail and phone messages every single day, and I’m pretty damned sure that I never gave the NSA any permission to record everything that I do.

But what the hell – “right to privacy” is only a “quaint” term, right?

I should probably just get over it.


TheLurkingMod | Tuesday September 22, 2009 05:12 pm 19

cinnamonape | Tuesday September 22, 2009 05:29 pm 20
In response to RieszFischer @ 17

But Senator Jim McDermott is going to have to pay Boehner $1 million for revealing (note: Not RECORDING, but simply making PUBLIC) a cell-phone conversation.

http://blog.cleveland.com/open…..ay_bo.html

So, I wonder if this means that not only will this Courretch fellow be subject to litigation…but Beck, Miller & Fox?


cinnamonape | Tuesday September 22, 2009 05:36 pm 21
In response to cinnamonape @ 20

More on Boehner vs. McDermott (both Congressmen, McDermott was not a Senator).

http://www.mediainstitute.org/…..3/5-b.html


stritz44 | Tuesday September 22, 2009 05:47 pm 22
In response to Teddy Partridge @ 15

Because there were people from white house buffy wicks on the conference call telling them to push BO agenda..Case closed

I posted about the NEA conference call’s clear and obvious violations of the Anti-Lobbying Act (19 U.S. Code §1913), which explicitly provides: “No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation, whether before or after the introduction of any bill, measure or resolution proposing such legislation, law, ratification, policy or appropriation …” The Anti-Lobbying Act, according to government handbooks, prevents government employees from engaging in “substantial ‘grass roots’ lobbying campaigns … expressly urging individuals to contact government officials in support of or opposition to legislation …. Provid[ing] administrative support for lobbing activities of private organizations …”

Violation of this law, in turn, violates 31 U.S. Code §1352, which, if read broadly, bans the use of federal funds for lobbying by the recipients: “funds appropriated by any Act [may not be] expended by the recipient of a Federal contract, grant, loan, or cooperative agreement to pay any person for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress, an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee of a Member of Congress in connection with any Federal action …”

But that’s not all. The conference call also violates the Hatch Act – in particular, 5 U.S. Code §7323(a)(4), which prohibits federal employees from “knowingly solicit[ing] or discourag[ing] the participation in any political activity of any person who – (A) has an application for any compensation, grant, contract, ruling, license, permit, or certificate pending before the employing office of such employee …”

And then there are regulations of the Office of Management and Budget. At least one organization represented on the conference call – Americans for the Arts — has charitable 501(c)(3) status. Under OMB Circular No. A-122, Attachment B, Section 25, federal moneys going to 501(c)3s cannot be used for “(1)Attempts to influence the outcomes of any Federal, State, or local election, referendum, initiative, or similar procedure, through in kind or cash contributions, endorsements, publicity ,or similar activity; … (3) Any attempt to influence: (i) The introduction of Federal or State legislation; or (ii) the enactment or modification of any pending Federal or State legislation through communication with any member or employee of the Congress or State legislature (including efforts to influence State or local officials to engage in similar lobbying activity), or with any Government official or employee in connection with a decision to sign or veto enrolled legislation; (4) Any attempt to influence: (i) The introduction of Federal or State legislation; or (ii) the enactment or modification of any pending Federal or State legislation by preparing, distributing or using publicity or propaganda, or by urging members of the general public or any segment thereof to contribute to or participate in any mass demonstration, march, rally, fundraising drive, lobbying campaign or letter writing or telephone campaign …” The responsibility falls on the federal agencies to implement the OMB circular. If any of the 501(c)3s on the call received federal moneys at any time near the conference call, the federal agency authorities who approved such disbursements violated this circular.

Also, many of the groups on the line were 501(c)(4) organizations, tax-exempt civic organizations who are generally allowed to lobby. Except if they receive federal funds, that is: “An organization described in section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 which engages in lobbying activities shall not be eligible for the receipt of Federal funds constituting an award, grant, or loan.” (P.L. 104-99 §129.) “Lobbying activities” are defined narrowly – they apply to contact with federal officials. But that, of course, is the whole point here: these artists are supposed to provide the groundwork for such contacts, which is barred by law.

It gets even worse. Under 18 U.S.C. §371, it could be found that this call was designed to defraud the United States: “If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.” Courts, in fact, have found that action designed to accomplish political activities with federal funds falls under this statute: in 1980, the 8th Circuit held in United States v. Pintar that where individuals conspired to use a federal program “to accomplish political objectives … unrelated to legitimate [agency] business,” they had defrauded “the United States of its right to have programs of an agency financed … by the United States Government … administered, honestly, fairly, without corruption or deceit.”

Undoubtedly, there is more to come here. At the very least, a bevy of federal laws have been violated. Any failure by the Congress of the United States to initiate a full-scale investigation must be considered action designed to enable the misuse of taxpayer funds in violation of federal law


newtonusr | Tuesday September 22, 2009 05:51 pm 23
In response to stritz44 @ 22

OK, thanks.
I’m assuming you are calling for prosecutions of Scott Jennings, Sara Taylor, Lurita Doan, etc., for violations of the Hatch act during the last administration.

Good to see that justice is non-partisan.


ThingsComeUndone | Tuesday September 22, 2009 05:58 pm 24
In response to JugOPunch @ 16

Well if your a sick puppy then sure they are funny but its the thought of giving/causing pain, humiliation rather than a joke which makes the GOPers smile.


stritz44 | Tuesday September 22, 2009 06:01 pm 25
In response to newtonusr @ 23

Hell, I would do you have a taped recording of it?


TheLurkingMod | Tuesday September 22, 2009 06:02 pm 26

ThingsComeUndone | Tuesday September 22, 2009 06:03 pm 27
In response to ThingsComeUndone @ 24

It is not real humor more the pleasure in having/expressing power over another person that makes them smile its a GOP Thing thankfully I don’t understand but I recognize it when I see it.


newtonusr | Tuesday September 22, 2009 06:07 pm 28
In response to stritz44 @ 25

Taped recording? How about C-span, which has the videos of their testimony.
You will just love Doan in particular.


Gasman | Tuesday September 22, 2009 08:01 pm 29
In response to stritz44 @ 22

Obama, Holder, and the Dem controlled Congress and Senate aren’t investigating known war crimes by Cheney and Bush and your pissed because of a wayward telephone call? Your outrage is more than slightly misplaced. Besides, the guy was Communication Director and it sounds like he had no authority to say or do the things he was talking about. It sounds like the guy from the NEA could face some heat, but not the organization.


stritz44 | Tuesday September 22, 2009 08:03 pm 30
In response to newtonusr @ 28

Looked it up thanks, agree totally, she had to go…But where was the NYT’s when it came to the NEA issue?


stritz44 | Tuesday September 22, 2009 08:14 pm 31
In response to Gasman @ 29

They know better, trust me what comes around goes around and Obama or Holder will not touch that issue…that is why he is dragging his feet with the Afgan report.In March he talked up his strategy, and then on Sunday he says he is reviewing his strategy. Holder will investigate the CIA to appease the left and guess what? Nothing will come of it, they know if not for the intelligence agenices this country would be in a ton of trouble…


cinnamonape | Tuesday September 22, 2009 10:15 pm 32
In response to stritz44 @ 22

“31 U.S. Code §1352, which, if read broadly, bans the use of federal funds for lobbying by the recipients: “funds appropriated by any Act [may not be] expended by the recipient of a Federal contract, grant, loan, or cooperative agreement to pay any person for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress, an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee of a Member of Congress in connection with any Federal action …”

You mean Like THIS???

Humana uses Medicare Mailing Lists to Lobby Against Health Care Legislation; GOP Rallies Around Insurers “Free Speech”


cinnamonape | Tuesday September 22, 2009 10:28 pm 33
In response to Teddy Partridge @ 15

I don’t know what might be the issue either…unless the NEA Director actually suggested programs to promote specific legislation that might be before Congress. Just encouraging Art projects encouraging public engagement in their communities, Science, the Environment, Volunteerism etc, hardly seems to be anything that would even approach a violation of the Hatch Act.

Of course, in the Republican paranoid mindset right now ANYTHING done by the Administration to encourage people to do anything represents a political act. The President gives a speech encouraging students to attend classes and work hard in school…it’s clearly a means to expand socialism. Makes the kids too “uppity” if you give them dreams and ambitions. Suggest that people get involved in the community, or vote…By Cracker, that’s gonna increase the electoral base of those that don’t usually vote and make informed voters. How dare they!

Artists clearly should only be painting billboards for corporations…or the exteriors of buildings.


OsborneInk | Wednesday September 23, 2009 11:32 am 34

You know, I’ve been covering this extensively at my blog and at Huffington Post — but I hadn’t even thought of that particular angle. You’re right: my (admittedly minimal) understanding of the law suggests Corrielche’s in violation of federal wiretapping statutes as well.


runfastandwin | Thursday September 24, 2009 12:43 pm 35
In response to stritz44 @ 22

To which I can only reply, to quote Ben Franklin, the louder they proclaimed their innocence, the faster we hid our spoons. Seriously if you have to post that much crap to make what point I have no idea you should be doing it on your own blog, not on this one.


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