National Endowment Letters Unsolicited


While I wait for word from Fraiola & Associates on the Penguin PAC (see below), I thought I’d go through a five-inch tall stack of papers Anu got in response to a FOIA request for congressional correspondence logs from the National Endowment of for the Humanities. So far, what I’ve seen aren’t letters from members of Congress, but rather, a March 16, 2007, letter NEH sent to the entire congressional delegations of states lucky enough to be blessed with NEH funding. The letters include “a complete list of grants recently made in your state by the National Endowment for the Humanities,” lists that have not yet been made public. “We are pleased to be able to notify Members of the House and Senate of these awards in advance of their public release,” the letter, from Bruce Cole, the chairman of NEH, states. Those lists are online now–and have been since April 19.

This is, I suppose, a matter of some interpretation, but in our view none of these letters was actually responsive to our FOIA request, which asked for logs of correspondence from members of Congress, and any agency replies. We did not ask for unsolicited letters sent by the agency to alert members noting its awarding of grant money to the member’s constituents, although it’s mildly interesting to see that NEH does this. I imagine they’re not alone.

There are also some oddities — the Texas House delegation, for example, has 32 members, all of whom got letters. Yet there are only four grantees (who will receive a total of $29,687)–surely the four grantees can’t have addresses in all 32 districts. If the purpose of the letters is to inform members of constituents who will receive federal funding, one would think NEH might target the letters a little more precisely.