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Office of Congressional Ethics concluded there is “probable cause” to believe Hastings “violated House rules, standards of conduct and federal law”

 (Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton today issued the following statement in response to a report released by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) related to sexual harassment and other allegations made by Winsome Packer against Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), as well as a House Ethics Committee’s decision to extend its probe of the matter:

We are very pleased that the Office of Congressional Ethics report validated Ms. Packer’s allegations against Rep. Hastings. Now the House Ethics Committee needs to get its act together and punish Rep. Hastings for his reprehensible treatment of Ms. Packer. Given the grave nature of the allegations and the other laws he evidently violated, the Department of Justice ought to investigate the allegations against Rep. Hastings as well.

In the meantime, Judicial Watch will proceed with its lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Packer.

Rep. Hastings’ attacks against Winsome Packer are disgraceful and beneath the office he holds. His response calls to mind his corrupt behavior that resulted in his impeachment and removal from the federal bench.

Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Packer against Rep. Hastings on March 7, 2011 (Packer v. US Comm. On Security & Cooperation in Europe, and Hastings and Turner (CV No. 11-00485)).

On October 11, 2011, the Office of Congressional Ethics referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee and released a report concluding, “…there is probable cause to believe that Representative Hastings violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law as a result of his interactions with [Ms. Packer].”

Ms. Packer alleges that Rep. Hastings subjected her to unwelcome sexual advances and touching over a two year period when she worked for the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the Helsinki Commission). Ms. Packer further alleges that Rep. Hastings, with the assistance of Helsinki Commission Staff Director Fred Turner, retaliated against her when she rebuffed the congressman’s advances.

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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.”

Hastings Allegedly Retaliated Against Victim for Complaining About Conduct

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Washington, DC — March 7, 2011Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a lawsuit on March 7, 2011, against Florida Democrat Congressman Alcee Hastings on behalf of a female employee who was repeatedly subjected 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 filed the lawsuit on behalf of Commission employee Winsome Packer (Packer v. US Comm. On Security & Cooperation in Europe, and Hastings and Turner (CV No. 11-00485 D.D.C.))According to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, filed on Monday March 7th with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:

For over two years, from January 2008 through February 19, 2010, Ms. Packer was forced to endure unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments, and unwelcome touching by Mr. Hastings while serving as the Representative of the Commission to the United States Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Although Ms. Packer repeatedly rejected Mr. Hastings’ sexual attention and repeatedly complained about the harassment to the Commission Staff Director, Fred Turner, Mr. Hastings refused to stop sexually harassing her. Rather, Mr. Hastings and Mr. Turner began to retaliate against Ms. Packer—including making threats of termination—because she continued to object to Mr. Hastings’ conduct.Ms. Packer was particularly vulnerable to such threats because she was a Republican working for the Democratically-controlled Commission, a point that both Mr. Hastings and Mr. Turner used to threaten and intimidate her. Eventually, the emotional distress, anxiety, and humiliation caused by the sexual harassment and retaliation caused Ms. Packer to suffer severe health problems and forced her to leave her prestigious position.

According to Judicial Watch’s complaint, “Mr. Hastings’ intention was crystal clear: he was sexually attracted to Ms. Packer, wanted a sexual relationship with her, and would help progress her career if she acquiesced to his sexual advances.” These advances included: Making multiple demands that Ms. Packer allow Rep. Hastings to stay in her apartment while she served as the Commission’s lead staff representative overseas; subjecting Ms. Packer to unwanted physical contact, including hugging her with both arms while pressing his body against her body and his face against her face; inviting her on multiple occasions to accompany him alone to his hotel room; making sexual comments and references to Ms. Packer, and asking Ms. Packer humiliating and inappropriate questions in public, such as “What kind of underwear are you wearing?”After Ms. Packer repeatedly rebuffed these advances and reported them to her superior, Mr. Turner, and other officials (including Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)), Hastings allegedly scolded her for not being a “sport” and for rejecting him after he had “come to [her] as a man does a woman.” He said he was very upset she had reported his behavior to Mr. Turner: “How dare you complain about me! You had better forget about being Republican.” Moreover, Hastings and Turner then allegedly took retaliatory actions against Ms. Packer by repeatedly threatening her job at the Commission, by refusing to allow her to return from overseas to her position as Policy Advisor in Washington, D.C., and by intentionally marginalizing her from her colleagues. Hastings also pressured Ms. Packer to buy him personal gifts and make a campaign contribution to him.As a direct result of Mr. Hastings’ sexual harassment, Ms. Packer experienced insomnia, anxiety, depression, high-blood pressure, and developed symptoms of coronary artery disease. At one point, these symptoms were so severe Ms. Packer collapsed and was rushed to the emergency room. Ms. Packer has been prescribed medication and is under the care of a physician because of the severity of her heart problems.“The allegations against Alcee Hastings as detailed in this complaint are outrageous. Is Congress so far gone that its members think they can get away with the most base sexual harassment of staff! For two years Hastings subjected Ms. Packer to a never-ending barrage of unwanted sexual advances. And when Ms. Packer tried, time and again, to put a stop to it, he resorted to threats and intimidation to force her compliance. Even after Hastings’ behavior caused Ms. Packer’s physical collapse, he would not relent. We look forward to holding Alcee Hastings and the other defendants accountable for their unlawful behavior in court,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.Hastings, a former federal judge, was impeached by the House and, after a trial, removed by the U.S. Senate from the bench in 1989 for bribery and perjury.

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Washington, DC — March 4, 2011

Judicial Watch will be holding a press conference to announce details of a lawsuit to be filed today against a U.S. Representative.
This offender has come to the attention of ethics committees on numerous occasions with transgressions ranging from questionable use of per diem funds to acceptance of bribe monies. The Judicial Watch lawsuit contends that the congressman has finally gone beyond the pale.

When:

1:00 PM ET, Monday, March 7, 2011

Where:

Judicial Watch conference room
425 Third St, SW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20024

Who:

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch

While in Santiago, Kennedy “made arrangements to ‘rent’ a brothel for an entire night”; Sought meetings with “communists and others who had left-wing views”

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Washington, DC — February 25, 2011

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained previously redacted material from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) file of the late Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, who died in August 2009 from brain cancer. Judicial Watch obtained the records pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit originally filed on June 9, 2010 (Judicial Watch v. FBI (Case No. 10-963)).
The documents include a December 28, 1961, FBI memo describing a tour of several Latin American countries taken by then-Assistant District Attorney of Suffolk County Kennedy. This document as it was originally made public was almost completely redacted. After an initial challenge by Judicial Watch, a version with fewer redactions was released. Judicial Watch continued to argue that the blackouts were baseless and, after six more months, the FBI relented. Among the statements previously withheld but now made available to Judicial Watch:

  • “While Kennedy was in Santiago he made arrangements to ‘rent’ a brothel for an entire night. Kennedy allegedly invited one of the Embassy chauffeurs to participate in the night’s activities.”
  • “[I]n each country Kennedy insisted on interviewing ‘the angry young men’ of the country. He wanted to meet with communists and others who had left-wing views. …Ambassador Freeman, Bogota, said the first person whom Kennedy wanted to meet was Lauchlin Currie.” (The document subsequently identifies Currie as a person who “had been mentioned in Washington investigations of Soviet spy rings.”)
  • “[I]n Mexico Kennedy asked Ambassador Mann that certain left-wingers be invited to the Embassy residence where interviews could be held. Mann took the strong position that he would not invite such people and stated that if any such interviews were to be conducted, all arrangements should be made by Kennedy himself.”

(Judicial Watch, through separate litigation (Judicial Watch v. FBI (Case No. 10-1568)), also recently forced the FBI to begin the release of the FBI file of the late Ted Stevens, the long-time Republican Senator from Alaska.)“The FBI’s reluctance to follow the law and release this material shows that it, too, is not above politics. Our tough fight with the Obama administration shows that it was not keen on letting the American people know that Ted Kennedy, one of Obama’s leftist politician heroes, liked to hang out with communists and prostitutes,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We will continue to investigate why the FBI improperly chose to keep this information secret.”

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Washington, DC — January 24, 2011Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released its list of investigative priorities for the new 112th Congress. The list, in alphabetical order, includes:

  • ACORN Corruption: Including, but not limited to, ACORN restructuring and rebranding; unethical activitiesby ACORN affiliates; incidents of voter registration fraud (Project Vote); and new Obama administration grants and funding for ACORN-linked groups.
  • Climategate: Including, but not limited to, the U.S. federal government’s involvement in the international scheme to exaggerate the rise in world temperature readings, the Environmental Protection Agency’s hyper-aggressive campaign to expand control over the economy through carbon restrictions and various controversies involving taxpayer-supported “green energy” programs.
  • Financial Solvency: Including, but not limited to, the impact nationally if individual States should begin to default on their debt.
  • Government Bailouts: Including, but not limited to, the government’s legal and constitutional justification for authorizing the bailouts of private financial institutions; government deliberations regarding which institutions received grants from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP); the decision by the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) to place Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under “conservatorship;” and the government takeover of the American automotive industry.
  • Illegal Immigration: Including, but not limited to, the President’s attempts to enact stealth amnesty for illegal aliens without approval by Congress; deteriorating security on the nation’s southern border with Mexico; and the Obama administration’s unwillingness to enforce federal immigration laws.
  • National Security: Including, but not limited to, the Obama administration’s mishandling of Guantanamo Bay and the decision to prosecute 9/11 terrorists including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in civilian courts on U.S. soil.
  • Obama Administration Czars: Including, but not limited to, the President’s decision to bypass Senate confirmation and appoint “czars” to hold positions of power within the Obama administration as well as various corruption scandals involving individual “czars.”
  • Obamacare: Including, but not limited to, the criteria used by the Obama administration to provide “waivers”to companies and unions exempting them from provisions of Obamacare; the Obama administration’s decision to evaluate medical treatments based solely on cost; and the regulation and funding of Obamacare in general.
  • Pension Fraud: Including, but not limited to, the funding and management of public pension plans for municipal, state and unionized government workers.
  • Politicization at the Department of Justice: Including, but not limited to racially and politically motivated decision-making in federal civil and voting rights enforcement (such as the decision to largely abandon a voter intimidation lawsuit against the Black Panthers); Justice’s decision to attack states that attempt to address illegal immigration through enhanced law enforcement measures; and the duties and responsibilities of lawyers inside Justice who previously represented terrorists.
  • White House Bribery: Including, but not limited to, an effort by the Obama administration to allegedly interfere with Senate elections in Pennsylvania and Colorado by offering federal appointments to candidatesRep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and Andrew Romanoff in exchange for abandoning their campaigns.

“The American people spoke clearly on Election Day: No more backroom deals, no more influence peddling and no more corruption. This new Congress has an obligation to honor the intense desire by the American people to clean up corruption in Washington,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The federal government has grown by trillions of dollars, yet much of this historic new government activity (and control) has escaped effective congressional oversight. It is well past time for Congress to help pry loose information from the Obama administration, which is the most secretive in recent American history.”

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