President Trump has been accused of trying to cut off struggling artists by eliminating federal arts funding, but a study released Monday found that taxpayers are spending millions on grants for wealthy nonprofits, some with assets of more than $1 billion.
The oversight report, conducted by the watchdog group Open the Books, found that the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities has awarded hundreds of millions to artists who aren’t exactly starving, including well-heeled organizations like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Met received $1.22 million in grants from fiscal 2009 to 2016, even though the museum known for its star-studded annual gala already has $3.7 billion in financial assets and annual revenue of $660.9 million.
"Why are taxpayers funding nonprofits that have assets of at least $1 billion?" the report asked. "Do charities have a right to public funding no matter what their balance sheet?"
At the same time, small nonprofits with less than $1 million in assets receive just $1 of every $4 in NFAH grant-making, the study said.
Top universities like Harvard and Yale with billion-dollar endowments have also benefited from the federal largesse. In fiscal 2016 the foundation gave $21.1 million to 69 universities with endowments or assets that exceeded $1 billion.
From 2009 to 2016 Harvard received $5.9 million from the three NFAH agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services — despite an endowment of $36 billion and total assets of $68.1 billion.
A total of 71 nonprofits each with assets of at least $1 billion received a combined $20.5 million in grants in fiscal 2016. At the bottom of the asset spectrum, 1,027 charities with assets of less than $1 million received $40.6 million in grants.
"In the arts community, there is a stark difference between the haves and have-nots," said the 48-page report.
The foundation granted $441.1 million to 3,163 museums, film festivals, ballet companies, symphonies, theaters, universities, other government entities and tribes in 2016.
The federal grants were also disproportionately concentrated in 10 states, which received $210 million, or 47 percent, of the total funding in fiscal 2016.
First on the list was New York, with $44.7 million; followed by California, with $41.6 million; Texas, with $20.2 million; and Illinois, with $17.6 million. Last among the states were Idaho, with $2.2 million, and North Dakota, with $2.1 million.
Open the Books is a project of American Transparency, a nonprofit that accepts no government funding, the report said.