Advocacy Alert: Feb. 5, 2009

Call Your Senators Today! Senate Votes Against Vitter Amendment to Restrict Funds; Coburn Amendment May Still Be Considered

On Wednesday, Feb. 4, during Senate consideration of the Economic Stimulus bill, Sen. David Vitter offered an amendment (S. Amdt. 179) that contained a provision barring funds from being used for zoos, aquariums or a Mob Museum. (“None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, or Mob Museum.”)

The Vitter amendment also called for the deletion of the proposed $55 million for the Historic Preservation Fund at the National Park Service, and investments in high-speed rail, hybrid vehicles, climate change research and health information technology, among other provisions. Fortunately, this amendment was defeated by a 32-65 vote. See how your Senator voted.

“I am pleased that this misguided amendment failed,” said AAM President Ford Bell. “But the fact that museums, zoos and aquariums are being targeted in this way illustrates the fact that we need to educate our legislators about how museums serve as economic engines and are a vital part of our nation’s educational infrastructure.”

Museums are still at risk from the additional amendment being offered by Sen. Tom Coburn, which could occur on Thursday or Friday of this week. Amendment No. 175, as filed, says: "None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas."

Calls to your Senators offices’ are the most time-efficient way to weigh in at this time. Please call today and urge them to OPPOSE any amendment to prohibit museums, zoos or aquariums, from receiving any funding from this bill, including the Coburn "Limitation of Funds Amendment No. 175." To reach your Senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senators' offices.

Here are some talking points on how museums serve as economic engines and educational investments in our communities:

  • Please vote “no” on the Coburn amendment (No. 175 to H.R. 1) which would ban stimulus funding for cultural institutions.

  • Museums help to anchor neighborhoods and communities, and often serve as the centerpieces of community redevelopment efforts. 

  • Museums are a prime destination for tourists and generate considerable spending and revenue that spurs the economy. 

  • Museums provide lifelong learning opportunities for Americans of all ages, including after-school programs for at-risk youth; 

  • Museums work with school districts to both train educators and help teach the curriculum; 

  • Many museums are free to the public and those that have admission fees charge only a small percentage of the actual cost of their programming. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has forced museums to struggle just to maintain essential services; 

  • Zoos and aquariums have tremendous public benefit for environmental education and wildlife conservation. Infrastructure investments that support these living collections will be critical in the economic recovery of cities and localities; 

  • Museums employ more than a quarter-million Americans, spend an estimated $14.5 billion annually, and rank among the top three family vacation destinations. In fact, visitors to cultural and heritage destinations stay 53% longer and spend 36% more money than other kinds of tourists. 

Please call today!