Smithsonian-Showtime deal spurs legislative response

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A House funding committee yesterday moved to cut Smithsonian salaries and expense accounts by $5 million and limit the institute’s “ability to execute any contract or legal agreement which could limit public access to the Smithsonian collections.” (See also the Washington Post.) The action was a response to recent revelations about the Smithsonian-Showtime programming deal, which gives Showtime first look at programs that aim to incorporate more than an “incidental” amount of the Smithsonian’s resources, and about high salaries at the Smithsonian’s commercial sales division, which are the subject of an investigation by the institution’s inspector general. Former Citibank exec Lawrence Small, head of the cash-strapped institute, earns roughly $813,000 annually, including a housing allowance. Last week, leaders of the House subcommittee that funds the Smithsonian also called for a probe into the Showtime deal.