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December 01, 2010
Jack Kingston Hates Smithsonian Pervert Art, Loves Subsidized Fruits

House Appropriations Committee member Jack Kingston (R - GA) is incensed over a Smithsonian Museum exhibit that features, in his words, "a crucifix being eaten by ants...Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, men in chains, [and] naked brothers kissing."

He wants a Congressional investigation, complete with "resignations" if possible, of an exhibit that the Smithsonian describes as "the first major museum exhibition in American history to focus on lesbian and gay art and culture from the late 19th century to the present," but which he describes as "in-your-face perversion paid for by tax dollars.Ē

"As stewards of the tax dollars in these very difficult times, we donít have the money to squander like this," he thundered to Fox News -- and just to clarify, he was talking about squandering money on the provocative art, not the investigation he has in mind.

In the past I've written about why the government should not fund art, so while I'm wary of how much Kingston and his Congressional cronies might squander on an investigation into Ellen DeGeneres' federally subsidized breasts, I am always in favor of looking a little more closely at how the government spends money.

The exhibit in question, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, is on display at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. According to the Smithsonian's 2011 budget, the annual budget for the National Portrait Gallery is around $6 million, with $943,000 of that earmarked for offering "compelling, first-class exhibitions." (See page 142 of the Smithsonian's 2011 budget report for these numbers. While it's still 2010, it's apparently already Fiscal Year 2011 at the Smithsonian, as it presents the Hide/Seek show as part of its 2011 budget rather than its 2010 budget.)

The Hide/Seek show is just one of many exhibits the National Portrait Gallery has planned for Fiscal Year 2011. Others include:

* An exhibition of portraits from private collections in the Washington, DC area

* An exhibition devoted to photographs of Elvis Presley taken in the year 1956

* Portraits by Alexander Calder

* An exhibit of contemporary portraiture that focuses on "race and identity in the American experience"

* Portraits of Babe Ruth

* A series of exhibitions marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War

In other words, that $943,000 is getting split at least seven different ways. How much specifically went to the Hide/Seek exhibition may not be revealed until Rep. Kingston embarks on his investigation, but I'm willing to bet it was less than the $641,000 Kingston has secured via earmarks over the last three years to "improve blueberry production and efficiency" in his home state of Georgia over the last three years. It's probably even less than the $350,000 he secured in 2010 for Atlantic Christian College, for "training and curriculum development."

While Kingston may legitimately wonder why taxpayers are being asked to at least partially and indirectly subsidize artwork that may offend Christians, it's also reasonable to ask why Kingston believes it's all right for taxpayers to subsidize a private institution whose mission is to "educate students for Christ-centered service and leadership throughout the world," in part by reserving the right to discipline students who look at porn, have cybersex, or otherwise engage in "sexual relations outside marriage," and by insisting that its employees recognize, respect, and adhere to the belief that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. (See pages 18, 19, and 34 of ACC's official student covenant for details.)

Over the last three years, Jack Kingston has sponsored or co-sponsored 145 earmarks worth $211.1 million according to data at Opensecrets.org. In a way then, you could probably say that a lengthy, Kingston-led investigation into the Smithsonian will be a boon to taxpayers. Anything that can distract him -- even for a few seconds -- from doling out millions to his Georgia constituents may save money for us all.

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:31 AM