Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Patty Gerstenblith Named to Obama Arts Committee

Prof. Patty Gerstenblith, a well known advocate for the archaeological community, has been named to the Obama '08 Arts Policy Committee. http://www.artsactionfund.org/pdf/artsvote/ObamaStatement3b.pdf

The Obama platform in the arts includes the promotion of "cultural diplomacy." Though the Obama platform does not mention it, the imposition of import restrictions on cultural artifacts has been pitched in the past as an element of such United States cultural diplomacy.

Prof. Gerstenblith previously served as a Clinton appointee to CPAC. The Huffington Post Website notes that Prof. Gerstenblith has donated $2300 to the Obama campaign. See http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=name&lname=Gerstenblith She has also donated to the campaigns of Democratic Senators Durbin and Levin as well as to the DNC. For federal candidates, an individual may contribute a maximum of $2,300 per election (the primary and general are separate elections).

Of course, Prof. Gerstenblith is just exercising her rights to play the political game like anyone else. However, I find it quite ironic that this news crops up at the very same time that Ellen Herscher of CAARI (and AIA) makes the claim (also made earlier on the SAFE website) that archaeologists don't "lobby." See: http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2008/08/caari-vp-ellen-herscher-response-to.html and R. Atwood, "A Critical Look at U.S. Media Coverage of Antiquities Issues" (available at: http://www.savingantiquities.org/feature_media.php ("I also find references to the "archaeological lobby," with no explanation of how archaeologists constitute a lobby, and no references at all to a dealers lobby, a collectors lobby, or a museum lobby except the kind where you get an information booklet. A "lobby" is a fairly specific thing; you have to register as a lobbyist to lobby in Congress.").

Once again, you can certainly "lobby" in many cases without having to "register," or impacting your organization's tax exempt status-- but in my opinion it is disingenuous to claim if you are trying to influence a government official that you are not "lobbying" at all.

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