Romney rally a violation of Ringling Museum no-politics policy

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney / GAGE SKIDMORE, VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Word began spreading across social media late Wednesday, Sept. 19, that, by agreeing to host a Mitt Romney rally Thursday afternoon, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art might have violated its own rental policy, which specifically bans all “Fundraising, Political or Revenue Generating activities.”

True, according to Ringling Museum Executive Director Steven High. “There are conflicts with the policies of the museum,” he says.

The “Ringling Museum of Art Rental Policies & Procedures,” posted on the museum website, contains a provision that says, “No Fundraising, Political or Revenue Generating activities [are] allowed by parties other than the Ringling Museum of Art.”

According to High, the Romney campaign approached the museum Sunday evening. “It was a major, certainly a national, event,” he says, “and so we went to the leaders at Florida State University for guidance on this and their decision was to move forward.” (FSU has overseen the Ringling Museum since 2000.)

According to High, the rules laid out in the website document “are not governing policies,” but are instead “guidance policies,” which can be adjusted if a particular event is deemed important enough. As an example, he says particular art exhibitions sometimes don’t comply with museum regulations, but if a specific show is worthy, the museum will make exceptions for it.

Furthermore, he says, FSU lawyers felt the Romney campaign would not violate the university’s policies.

High calls the contract with the Romney campaign a “flat rental agreement” similar to all others the Ringling signs. Still, he says he wants to revisit the process that led to the Romney contract once the rally has passed.

“These are precedents that I don’t think should be set,” High says, “so we will certainly have a discussion as an institution and as a component of Florida State University as well, and make sure that all aspects of the decision point are taken into account.”

Editor’s note: Hat tip to Virginia Hoffman for first posting the museum’s rental policies.