NBC Lobbies for $2.5 Billion in Smithsonian Funding

     The Smithsonian is falling apart and the only way it can be saved is with more money.

     What else is new – another government bureau is pleading for more money, right?

     Aside from the fact that according to the November 25 “NBC Nightly News,” the Smithsonian is asking for only $2.5 billion. And that’s despite a congressional inquiry in March about a Washington Post report detailing questionable use of funds. The hearing examined $2 million in housing and office expenditures by former Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small, as well as $90,000 in unauthorized expenses.

     Small resigned shortly after those reports surfaced, but the problems were left behind. So now the government needs more money.

     “Now the institution’s leaders estimate they need some $2.5 billion to keep its buildings and collections from falling apart,” said “Nightly News” anchor Amy Robach. “The Smithsonian is about to launch its first major effort to find private money for the repairs, but officials are also hoping they can convince Congress to open its wallet.”

     “Nightly News” mentioned the Small’s resignation, but failed to disclose the specifics of what actually happened. They also failed to disclose one of the problems reported in the “Nightly News” story, the leaks, which date back to 2005 in the middle of Small’s tenure at the Smithsonian.

     The solution: Rather than finding ways to run a more efficient business model and actually charge for admission – raise more taxpayer money from Congress.

     “But the Smithsonian believes the nation’s artifacts belong to its citizens and they shouldn't have to pay to see them,” said NBC correspondent Tom Costello. “The question now, will Congress pay to maintain them.”    

     According to Costello, the Smithsonian ills include leaks in the museums and problems at the National Zoo, including leaks, crumbling walls, and a failing electric system.

     However, patterns of problems also have long existed with the National Zoo’s infrastructure. On Jan. 11, 2003, two adult male red pandas were found dead in their pen and officials suspected that rat poison pellets buried on the grounds just 24 hours earlier were responsible for their deaths.

     Six months later the zoo suffered another public relations hit when a cat killed a bald eagle on the Fourth of July after the cat was able to get into the eagle’s enclosure at the zoo.

     The zoo’s director, Dr. Lucy Spelman, eventually resigned in December 2004 in the midst of the turmoil over accusations of mismanagement and was replaced by John Berry.

     The NBC report about the Smithsonian troubles quoted liberal Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who seemed to be in favor of charging admission.

     “Look, these are crown jewel facilities,” Feinstein said. “These are not minor facilities. They are mega in their impact.”

     But even Feinstein favored cutbacks in the Smithsonian’s bloated budget and less reliance on the taxpayer according to Bloomberg – a significant detail ignored by the “Nightly News” report.

     “Time and again I have conveyed to the Regents that the Smithsonian cannot rely on the federal government for this magnitude of funding,'' Feinstein said according to an October 1 Bloomberg report. “Other, more creative partnerships must be explored to address maintenance issues at the Smithsonian.”