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America’s Largest Government Watchdog Calls on Congress to Clean up Corruption and Restore Rule of Law to Washington, DC

(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch today released its list of investigative priorities for the new 113th Congress. The investigative agenda, which is being independently pursued by Judicial Watch, is a wide-ranging catalog of waste, fraud and abuse by the Obama administration. The investigative priorities include:

  • Rule by Executive Fiat: President Obama’s decision to bypass Congress, often contrary to the U.S. Constitution, and implement his agenda via executive fiat on a wide range of issues from undermining the Second Amendment to rewriting immigration law, to controlling free speech on the Internet.
  • Benghazi-gate: The Obama administration’s attempts to deceive the American people regarding the terrorist connection to the murder of four Americans, including a U.S. Ambassador, at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi; the decision by the State Department to deny support for U.S. forces during the attack and the Obama administration’s refusal to bolster security at the consulate in the lead up to the anniversary of 9/11.
  • Bin Laden Raid Leaks and Secrets:  The Obama Department of Defense’s (DOD) decision to leak classified details at the behest of the Obama White House to the filmmakers behind Zero Dark Thirty, a Hollywood film detailing the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden; the refusal of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the leaks despite a criminal referral from the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General; the leaking of the names of military operatives involved in the raid by DOD Undersecretary Mike Vickers; the connection of John Brennan, Obama’s pick to head the CIA, to the leaks; the decision by the Obama DOD to withhold from the American people the videos and photos detailing the raid. 
  • Election Fraud: The DOJ’s refusal to enforce provisions of the National Voter Registration Act, that requires states to maintain clean voter registration lists; DOJ’s campaign to threaten, intimidate and sue states that attempt to implement election integrity provisions consistent with the law, such as voter ID laws; DOJ’s collusion with radical leftist and corrupt special interest groups such as Project Vote and other ACORN-connected groups.
  • Threats to Second Amendment Protections: The Obama administration’s closed-door discussions with anti-gun activists designed to craft policies that restrict gun ownership and undermine the Second Amendment, including new policies that would seek to pressure businesses to toe the administration’s gun agenda; policy recommendations that “suggest” doctors ask patients about gun ownership; efforts to compile federal registries on gun ownership; and efforts to use EPA regulations to restrict gun ownership. 
  • Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s highly controversial June 20, 2012, assertion of “executive privilege” to protect Attorney General Eric Holder from being prosecuted for failing to provide Congress with documents pertaining to the Obama administration’s deadly gunrunning operation known as Operation Fast and Furious; Obama’s invocation of executive privilege moves the legal and political questions surrounding the deaths of more than 300 Mexicans directly into the Oval Office; efforts by the Holder DOJ and top Justice officials to conceal their knowledge and participation in the Fast and Furious scandal and to escape accountability while blaming the scandal on low level officials.
  • Ongoing Government Bailouts: The government’s continued control of private sector institutions through bailouts of private financial institutions; government decisions regarding the ongoing Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailouts; the role of the Federal Reserve in supporting European Union bailouts and the continued financing of our nation’s public debt; and the government takeover of the American automotive industry.
  • Green Energy Boondoggles:  The Obama Department of Energy’s decision to funnel $16.4 billion to “green energy” companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers; the half-a-billion taxpayer dollars given to the now-bankrupt Solyndra, a green energy boondoggle financially backed by Tulsa billionaire Georg Kaiser, an Obama campaign fundraiser; the decision by the Obama White House to fast-track the Solyndra loan through the approval process; bailouts given to other failing “green pork” companies, such as Fisker Automotive, Ener1, Abound Solar, and Beacon Power.
  • Illegal Immigration: The President’s amnesty scheme for illegal aliens imposed via executive fiat; deteriorating security on the nation’s border with Mexico; the Obama administration’s unwillingness to enforce federal immigration laws and attacks against states attempting to confront the illegal immigration crisis.
  • National Security: Unanswered questions concerning the relationship of the FBI and CIA to American-born militant Imam Anwar al-Aulaqi and his assassination per the order of Barack Obama in 2011; the Obama administration’s determined efforts to censor speech about the threat of radical Islam.
  • Obama Czars: Barack Obama’s repeated attempts to bypass the “advice and consent” authority of the U.S. Senate and appoint unaccountable and corrupt czars to control major aspects of government policy and programs outside of the reach of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); the decision by Obama to improperly employ a controversial recess appointment to install radical leftist Richard Cordray at the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau(CFPB) after the Senate had blocked his nomination; Obama’s decision to use recess appointments to appoint three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a move which exceeded his constitutional authority per a recent appeals court ruling.
  • Obamacare: Obamacare’s mandate to evaluate medical treatments based solely on cost; the Obama administration’s secrecy regarding the distribution of Obamacare waivers; the Obama administration’s use of taxpayer dollars to produce and distribute Obamacare propaganda; and the regulation and funding of Obamacare in general.
  • Unprecedented Secrecy: The Obama administration’s withholding of records pertaining to Obamacare to the continued funding of the criminal ACORN network; from tracking Wall Street bailout money to the unconstitutional use of czars; to withholding the Secret Service’s White House visitor logs; to the attacks on the integrity of our nation’s elections. (Judicial Watch has had to file almost 1,000 FOIA requests and nearly 100 FOIA lawsuits against the Obama administration.)

Judicial Watch, in partnership with Breitbart.com, commissioned an election night survey of voters conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, which found that corruption in the federal government is a serious concern among voters, with 85% saying they are “concerned” and of that number 53% saying they are “very concerned.”

“There was only one non-partisan mandate handed to Congress and the president on Election Day 2012 – to clean up corruption and restore the rule of law to Washington,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “President Obama has presided over the greatest expansion of government power in modern history and most of this activity has escaped congressional oversight. Judicial Watch is doing its part to fill in the oversight gap, but it is well past time for Congress to help pry loose information from the Obama administration, which has proven to be both highly secretive and corrupt.”

Local Immigration Officials Given Wide Latitude to Dismiss Illegal Immigration Deportation Cases, Including For Those Involving Violent Crimes

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Washington, DC — July 7, 2011Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Homeland Security (DHS) showing that DHS officials misled Congress and the public about the scope of an immigration enforcement policy change that gave wide latitude to local immigration officials to dismiss illegal alien deportation cases. According to the documents, obtained pursuant to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, immigration officials sought the dismissal of charges against a wide range of illegal alien criminals, including those convicted of violent crimes, despite claims by the Obama administration to the contrary.The documents concern the response by Houston immigration officials to a June 30, 2010, memo from John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to all ICE employees instructing local immigration officials to use their discretion in “prioritizing” illegal immigration deportation cases. This new policy resulted in the dismissal of hundreds of immigration cases and an overall 40% increase in deportation dismissals with the City of Houston taking a particularly aggressive approach to the policy’s implementation.In response to calls by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for more information regarding this new deportation policy, DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said, “The idea that DHS is engaged in ‘selective enforcement’ couldn’t be further from the truth.” However, the documents uncovered by Judicial Watch show that Houston immigration officials moved quickly to implement a broad interpretation of Morton’s memo, earning praise from ICE agency headquarters:

  • Email from Gary Goldman, Chief Counsel for Houston ICE to Riah Ramlogan, ICE’s Director of Field Operations, August 6, 2010:

    I was uncertain whether to write you this short note but I am comfortable in doing so.In brief, I will push every policy that was disseminated to the Chief Counsels to my staff…effectively and quickly. I understand the responsibilities of my position and I take great pride in my work. I will…ensure each attorney is fully knowledgeable and compliant with policies regarding courtroom expectations, written work, humanitarian cases, reporting requirements, etc.

    (Ramlogan’s response to Goldman’s efforts, August 10, 2010: “Outstanding, Gary.”)

  • Memo from Goldman to all attorneys, Office of Chief Counsel, August 12, 2010 (ultimately rescinded per the instruction of ICE headquarters):

    Beginning immediately on all duty files and court files every attorney must determine whether the case may be amenable to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion pursuant to guidelines outlined in the June 30, 2010 Assistant Secretary John Morton memorandum…If the crime is remote in time and the alien has a substantial number of equities, all factors will be weighed to determine if an exercise of PD [prosecutorial discretion] is appropriate.

  • Memo from Goldman to all attorneys, Office of Chief Counsel, August 16, 2010 (ultimately rescinded per the instruction of ICE headquarters):

    ICE Senior Leadership does not want their attorneys to merely fill a seat in immigration court and blindly prosecute every case handed to them. The current administration wants attorneys of greater sophistication, independence and complexity in decision making…

Moreover, despite the claims of immigration officials, ICE attorneys sought to block deportation proceeding for illegal aliens with violent crime offenses. A spreadsheet obtained by Judicial Watch lists the specific violent crimes that immigration officials were prepared to overlook. They include: sexual assault, solicitation of murder, aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer, and kidnapping, as well as numerous drug charges.Following the press coverage of the memo, which resulted in widespread outrage, immigration officials sought to contain the damage by narrowing the scope of the policy change:

  • An email from Raphael Choi, Chief Counsel for Arlington ICE to Gary Goldman, August 18, 2010:

    …in-house I’m way behind. We continue to review cases piecemeal. The problem is every time I’m about to wield a blunt instrument to our docket, some case shows up in the press that gives me pause. I think its given Riah pause too.

  • Letter from Ramlogan to Goldman on the day the Houston Chronicle exposed the new policy on deportations, August 25, 2010:

    I am concerned that your interpretation of the memorandum, although well-intentioned, could create a gap in basic immigration enforcement. Your approach that our attorneys should only litigate cases within the agency’s highest priorities is not an accurate interpretation of the Assistant Secretary’s guidance and is not consistent with agency policy…please immediately rescind your memoranda.

    (Note: Ramlogan had been provided a copy of Goldman’s memo on August 10, 2010 but provided no comment until the day the Houston Chronicle story was published.)

On June 17, 2011, John Morton sent another memo to all field officers, special agents and to the chief counsel further defining the term “prosecutorial discretion.” “In basic terms, prosecutorial discretion is the authority of an agency charged with enforcing a law to decide to what degree to enforce the law against a particular individual,” Morton writes. Critics point out that this is precisely the type of “selective enforcement” the DHS has denied fostering with its new deportation policy.“These documents show that the Obama administration is implementing ‘stealth amnesty,’ which is an end-run around the rule of law and Congress.” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama administration doesn’t seem to care about its constitutional responsibility to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ by pushing the selective enforcement of immigration laws. And they are thumbing their noses at Congress and the American people by stonewalling information requests and lying to cover up their stealth amnesty scheme. Congress should initiate a full investigation to get to the truth of the matter. The lawlessness must stop.”

Documents Uncovered

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Washington, DC — June 24, 2011Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton issued the following statement regarding the investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) of sexual harassment and other charges in the lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch on behalf of Winsome Packer, a staffer on a commission headed by Hastings (Packer v. US Comm. On Security & Cooperation in Europe, and Hastings and Turner (No. 11-00485 D.D.C.)):

The OCE is indeed investigating Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of congressional staffer Winsome Packer on March 7, 2011, in which Hastings is accused of repeatedly subjecting Packer to “unwelcome sexual advances,” “unwelcome touching” and retaliation.The alleged harassment and retaliation began in 2008, when Hastings was Chairman of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Commission is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Also named is the Commission’s former staff director, Fred Turner.Judicial Watch confirms that Ms. Packer is cooperating with the Office of Congressional Ethics. She and Judicial Watch met with investigators for several hours in May.

The OCE has 89 days to complete its investigation and to recommend its findings to the House Ethics Committee for action.

Committee Refuses to Hold Individual Members Accountable

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Washington, DC — June 21, 2011
Judicial Watch, the organization that fights government corruption, announced today that the Senate Committee on Ethics sent a letter on June 3, 2011, to all Senate Members and staff to make certain they “understand and adhere to the rules on unused per diem,” following a Judicial Watch ethics complaint over alleged widespread abuse of cash per diem travel funds by members of Congress. The Senate Ethics Committee refused, however, to hold accountable individual members of Congress referenced in press reports documenting per diem abuse.
According to the Senate Ethics Committee letter sent to Judicial Watch on June 8, 2011:

…based upon review of the information you have provided, it appears that your complaint lacks merit and further Committee action is not appropriate with respect to this matter. The Committee, however, has recently circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter to ensure that all Members and staff, especially those who are new to the Senate, understand and adhere to the rules on unused per diem. [Emphasis added]

The Senate Ethics Committee letter sent to each U.S. Senator states:

There has been recent media attention regarding the use of foreign travel per diem by Members and staff of the Senate. We want to make sure that you and your staffs know that any unused portion of your foreign travel per diem must be returned to the United States Treasury after you return home.

Judicial Watch filed letters of complaint with the Senate and House Ethics Committee on March 31, 2010, following a March 2, 2010, Wall Street Journal article documenting the per diem abuses by Members of Congress:

Congress has no system for tracking how the cash payments, called per diems, are being spent. Lawmakers aren’t required to keep receipts and there are no public records. In the past two years, hundreds of lawmakers spent a total of 5,300 days visiting 130 foreign countries on taxpayer-funded trips, according to congressional travel records.

With regard to how Members of Congress may have misappropriated the funds, according to the article: “Sometimes they give it away; sometimes they pocket it. Many lawmakers said they didn’t know the rules for repayment.”Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), The Wall Street Journal notes, admitted that it’s “fairly standard” policy for lawmakers to use the leftover money “for shopping or to buy souvenirs to bring back to constituents.”As Judicial Watch argued in its letters of complaint, such behavior is seemingly in violation of explicit House and Senate rules governing the reimbursement of travel expenses. For example, according to Senate rules:

A per diem allowance provided a Member, officer, or employee in connection with foreign travel shall be used solely for lodging, food, and related expenses and it is the responsibility of the Member, officer, or employee receiving such an allowance to return to the United States Government that portion of the allowance received which is not actually used for necessary lodging, food, and related expenses.

“We are pleased that the Senate Ethics Committee has responded to our call to educate members on their responsibilities to the U.S. taxpayers and the rule of law regarding these per diems. It is a sad story that United States Senators need to be reminded that they can’t keep taxpayer cash for their own personal use,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is obvious that members of the U.S. Senate have abused this process, and we believe a more thorough investigation is warranted. The Senate Ethics Committee shouldn’t give a pass to members to misappropriated taxpayer funds.”

While the nation continues suffering through a financial crisis, federal lawmakers from both political parties remain incredibly generous with tax dollars, doling out millions in bonuses to members of their staff including those with six-figure salaries.Considering that unemployment is at an all-time high and the federal budget is in desperate need of slashing, this is the last thing Americans need to hear. The bonuses, distributed my members of Congress, ranged from $2,000 to about $5,000 and totaled more than $21 million. The money was distributed shortly after the federal government finished the year with a $1.3-trillion budget deficit. The data, which can be viewed here, was compiled by aWashington D.C. nonprofit dedicated to tracking congressional salaries.The bonuses came out of the public funds that each member of the U.S. House gets for office expenses and salaries. Any unspent money goes back to the government, or in most cases, to pad staffers’ salaries. The worst offender in 2010 was Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite, a Republican who represented east-central Florida before retiring last year. She paid out more than $200,000 in bonuses, according to the database.Nearly one in 10 House members paid at least $100,000 in staff bonuses in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the compiled stats. Almost half of the lawmakers fromCalifornia, the state with the largest House delegation, gave their staff bonuses including five who generously distributed at least six figures.In a local newspaper report several members of California’s delegation explained that bonuses are essential to compete with the private sector. One Democrat from San Josepointed out that “recruiting quality staff for quality constituent services is difficult enough given limited resources.” Another, who paid an average $5,000 bonus, says it’s a “modest financial recognition.”Perhaps it wouldn’t seem so modest if the money came out of the legislators’ pockets. Not surprisingly, no one cared to comment on the bonuses that went to congressional staffers who make six-figure salaries.

Topics to Include White House Visitor Logs and Lobbyists

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Washington, DC — May 2, 2011

On Tuesday, May 3, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton will provide testimony to the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearing, entitled “White House Transparency, Visitor Logs and Lobbyists,” will examine issues concerning the release of White House visitor records.
The Chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee is Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Ranking Minority Member is Diana DeGette (D-CO).To view the proceedings Tuesday live online, click here:

  • When: Tuesday, May 3
    10:30 AM ET
  • Where: Rayburn House Office Building
    Room 2123

As background to tomorrow’s testimony, it was Judicial Watch that successfully forced the release of White House visitor logs related to visits by former lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff to the Bush White House in 2006. Judicial Watch continued its aggressive pursuit of these logs with the Obama administration. Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Obama Secret Service, which lawlessly claimed these records were not agency records subject to timely public disclosure. Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit, which is ongoing.Tens of thousands of visitor logs continue to be withheld, and a report by the Center for Public Integrity suggests that the records that have been released are “riddled with holes.” Other reports detail that White House officials have met with lobbyists “off campus” to avoid disclosing lobbyists contacts through White House visitor logs.UPDATE: Tom Fitton’s opening statement.

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Washington, DC — March 14, 2011

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton will provide testimony to this week’s Senate and House hearings on government compliance to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). He will, on behalf of the government watchdog Judicial Watch, focus on whether the Obama administration’s transparency promises are being kept. Judicial Watch has filed over 325 Freedom of Information requests with the Obama administration, and has been forced to file 44 lawsuits to force the Obama administration to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing is entitled “The Freedom of Information Act: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age.” Senator Patrick Joseph Leahy (D-VT) is Chairman of the Committee, Senator Charles E. “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA) is the Ranking Minority Member. To view the Senate Judiciary proceedings Tuesday live online, click here: http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/

  • When: Tuesday, March 15, 201110:15 AM ET
  • Where: Dirksen Senate Office BuildingRoom 226

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing is entitled “The Freedom of Information Act: Crowd-Sourcing Government Oversight.” Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is Chairman of the Committee, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) is the Ranking Minority Member. To view the House Government Reform and Oversight proceedings Thursday live online click here: http://oversight.house.gov/

  • When: Thursday, March 17, 20119:30 AM ET
  • Where: Rayburn House BuildingRoom 2154

The hearings are being held as part of Sunshine Week 2011 — March 13-19. Sunshine Week is a national initiative by the news media, nonprofits and other organizations interested in promoting government transparency.

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Washington, DC — March 9, 2011

Below is the text of a letter Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton sent to Congressman Peter King (R-NY) regarding the radicalization of American Muslims. Tomorrow, Congressman King is chairing a hearing of his committee to discuss exactly that topic.

February 1, 2011The Honorable Peter T. King
United States House of Representatives
339 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515Dear Congressman King:Congratulations on your chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee in the 112th Congress.As president of Judicial Watch, a conservative, nonpartisan educational foundation in the nation’s capital, whose mission is the promotion of transparency, integrity, and accountability in government, politics, and the law, I applaud your determination to undertake afresh an investigation of the increasing “radicalization” of American Muslims.Shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, Judicial Watch undertook an investigation of Muslim charities and filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding non-profit entities in the United States that “reportedly” had been serving as money laundering front organizations for Islamic terrorists, particularly Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2004, several of the organizations listed by Judicial Watch were further investigated by the Senate Finance Committee.Most recently, we filed a complaint with the Office of the Mayor in the New York Supreme Court for its failure to produce documents responsive to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. A copy of our January 3, 2011, media release regarding our findings from recently produced documents is enclosed.Judicial Watch has hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country who faithfully support our mission—and who stand firmly against the tide of political correctness that undermines our national security. Your determination to investigate the increasing radicalization of American Muslims has our support, and we remain available to present testimony of our findings and to support your good efforts to hold Muslim leaders in America accountable.Sincerely,Thomas J. Fitton

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