Judicial Watch • Obama

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The U.S. government is blowing $500,000 to study a questionable program that’s received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from the Obama Administration to transform poverty-stricken neighborhoods into sustainable, mixed-income areas with affordable housing, safe streets and good schools.

Known as Choice Neighborhoods, the costly enterprise is a centerpiece of the president’s interagency Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. This is described by the administration as collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Education, Justice, Treasury and Health and Human Services (HHS) to support the ability of local leaders from the public and private sectors and attract the private investment needed to transform distressed neighborhoods.

Those who care to read between the lines may conclude that this requires big bucks. After all, transforming “distressed” (crime-infested) neighborhoods into desirable middle-class areas can’t be cheap. The proof is in the pudding, or rather the government’s own ledger. Since Obama launched his brilliant Choice Neighborhoods project, it has received north of $236 million, including $110 million in fiscal year 2012. Like many of the president’s initiatives, a chunk of the cash has gone to leftist nonprofits and community groups.  

Logic would lead most to conclude that the administration views Choice Neighborhoods as successful or it wouldn’t keep pouring huge sums of taxpayer dollars into it. So why dole out an additional half a million in research grants to study it? It’s unlikely that any of the grant recipients who will conduct the studies will determine that it’s a waste or a miserable failure, considering Uncle Sam is cutting the checks on both ends.

A high-ranking official at HUD, the agency doling out the cash to conduct the studies, says the grants demonstrate a “commitment to sound research to help gauge the program’s overall success and cultivate the most promising approaches to making the greatest possible impact.” This doesn’t sound all that convincing considering all the money that has already been allotted to the revitalization program.

Let’s check out some of the study recipients; a public university in Washington State will get close to $200,000 to develop an advanced administrative database that provides information about the residents of a Seattle public housing community and its surrounding neighborhood. Another public university in northern California will get $131,148 to research the challenges of brining healthy food options to poor neighborhoods and a Portland college will get close to $77,000 to collect data the characteristics of the neighborhoods being targeted for transformation in the first place.

 

The Obama Administration has spent $36.2 million on studies that justify awarding huge sums to leftist groups that help poor minorities with “housing counseling,” a Judicial Watch investigation has found.

JW launched a probe to uncover how much taxpayer money is being spent on research that, incredibly, always concludes housing counseling is a positive and valuable thing for low-income populations and minorities. The Obama Administration has poured tens of millions of dollars into the coffers of leftwing community groups that help minorities seeking a good home or struggling to keep one on the verge of foreclosure.  In fact, in last few months alone, the nonprofits have received $42 million.

Among them are hundreds of national, regional and local organizations like the powerful open borders group with close ties to the president, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Earlier this year the NCLR, whose federal funding has skyrocketed since one of its top officials got a job on the Obama White House, got nearly $2 million to help combat predatory lending, train poor Latinos about financial literacy and help them become homeowners.

The National Community Reinvestment Corporation, a famously liberal activist group that seeks to eliminate “discrimination” in housing and mortgage lending, and the equally leftist National Urban League, which advocates for social justice and claims voter identification laws are racist also got a chunk of change this year. The first group received $2.5 million from Uncle Sam and the second got $1.05 million.

 To justify the exorbitant allocations, last week the administration released two in-depth studies that essentially say the government-funded housing counseling program is the best thing since sliced bread. Not surprisingly, both studies also concluded that Uncle Sam must keep funding the dubious program for the good of mankind. Read all about it in a 197-page report titled “Foreclosure Counseling Outcome Study” and a 91-page “Pre-Purchase Counseling Outcome Study.”

How much did American taxpayers spend on these studies? That’s what JW set out to find and the figure is downright enraging. Since 2009 the company hired by the Obama Administration to conduct the studies, ABT Associates, has received $36.2 million, according to documents obtained by JW. This includes $18.3 million for “program study and evaluation,” the government records show.

To produce the pro housing counseling reports released last week, ABT Associates received at least $2.5 million, according to a government contract signed in the fall of 2011. The deal was for “impact evaluation” of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) “pre-purchasing counseling program.” The administration has yet to reveal the amount it paid for the second study, which is also linked above. JW will continue investigating this matter.

A special treat from the Obama Administration; for the first time, the U.S. government’s annual comprehensive report on Americans’ health features a special and heavily promoted section on socioeconomic status.

This appears to be part of the president’s mission to close the gap in “health disparities” that currently exist between poor minorities and whites. In fact, Obamacare created an initiative to “reduce racial and ethnic health disparities” by, among other things, establishing dozens of new “health equity” offices to “empower people” and “mobilize community partnerships” to end disparities. More than $100 million has already been dedicated to the initiative to help lower chronic diseases “disproportionately seen among poor and minority populations.”

To promote the cause, and the Affordable Care Act’s groundbreaking policies, April was coined National Minority Health Month (because “health equity can’t wait”). This month, the agency that publishes the nation’s annual health report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proudly announced its dedicating a portion to socioeconomic status and health. The report’s bright purple cover promotes the new section in big type right below the main title (Health, United States, 2011). 

Approximately 20 pages are dedicated to the special socioeconomic status section, which features a variety of charts and graphs comparing the difference in the healthcare received by whites, Hispanics, blacks and Asians. Practically all ailments are mentioned, including asthma, obesity, mental disorders and dental visits with a breakdown of disparities among ethnic minorities and the uneducated and poverty-stricken.

Everything from depression to edentulism (lack of natural teeth), obesity, cigarette smoking and cancer is more prevalent among the poor, according to the government’s assessment. Even childhood attention deficit disorder hits low-income minorities harder and practically every chronic disease known to man strikes them at much greater rates than educated whites. In short, people with higher education and income levels have lower rates of many chronic diseases compared to those with less education and lower income levels, the feds assert.

This also applies to childhood obesity, one of Michelle Obama’s obsessions. If you recall, the First Lady got Congress to pass a $4.5 billion law to conquer childhood obesity by convincing lawmakers and the nation that it’s an epidemic, especially among low-income minorities. As a result American taxpayers are funding an overhaul of the inner city diet by providing affordable—and in some cases free—healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, in areas known as “food deserts.”   

As part of that particular effort, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched an internet-based mapping tool last year that identifies so-called “food deserts,” which are low-income areas with “limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.” The tool will help the feds provide fresh produce and grilled lean meats as alternatives to greasy, fried foods that tend to be more popular in those areas.

 

 

In an apparent effort to justify giving leftist groups tens of millions of dollars to provide low-income populations and minorities with “housing counseling,” the Obama Administration has released two in-depth studies that conclude the government-funded program is the best thing since sliced bread.

Furthermore, Uncle Sam must keep doling out the cash for this noble cause, according to the government’s own findings. This seems to be a response to coming under fire for pouring huge sums of taxpayer dollars into the coffers of leftwing community groups that help minorities seeking a good home or struggling to keep one on the verge of foreclosure. In the last few months alone, the nonprofits have received $42 million.

Among them are hundreds of national, regional and local organizations like the powerful open borders group with close ties to the president, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Earlier this year the NCLR, whose federal funding has skyrocketed since one of its top officials got a job on the Obama White House, got nearly $2 million to help combat predatory lending, train poor Latinos about financial literacy and help them become homeowners.

The National Community Reinvestment Corporation, a famously liberal activist group that seeks to eliminate “discrimination” in housing and mortgage lending, and the equally leftist National Urban League, which advocates for social justice and claims voter identification laws are racist also got a chunk of change this year. The first group received $2.5 million from Uncle Sam and the second got $1.05 million.

The money couldn’t go to a better cause, according to a pair of studies financed by American taxpayers to justify the waste. The first is documented in a 197-page report titled “Foreclosure Counseling Outcome Study” and the second in a 91-page “Pre-Purchase Counseling Outcome Study.” Nearly 70% of those who received housing counseling were able to avoid foreclosure, according to the first report and pre-purchase counseling really helped a “diverse group of low- to moderate-income individuals obtain useful information” that led to home ownership.

In short, “housing counseling significantly improved the likelihood homeowners remained in their homes” according to a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) press release announcing the reports this month. The announcement is appropriately titled “HUD Studies Show Housing Counseling Helps Families Prepare for Home Ownership and Keep the Homes They Have.”

The key phrase comes via HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, Raphael Bostic: “These two studies underscore the need to continue supporting housing counseling programs across this country, especially during this period when families need these services the most.” He continues: “The evidence is clear, with a little investment on the front end, we can go a long way toward improving the chances families will buy a home they can afford and sustain their homes in the long run.”

The latest government figures reveal that an astonishing number of people are collecting public benefits such as food stamps and disability checks, revealing an alarming trend of dependence on government rather than self-sufficiency associated with the American dream.

A record 5.4 million workers have applied for federal disability checks since President Obama took office, according to a news report that cites recent government figures. This is straining already-stretched government finances while posing a long-term economic threat by creating an ever-growing pool of permanently dependent working-age Americans, the report says.

Since the recession supposedly ended in mid 2009, the number of people who have applied for disability benefits is double the job growth figure, according the report which includes an informative chart.  In just the first four months of this year, 539,000 joined the disability rolls and more than 725,000 applied for the federal benefit. That means nearly 11 million people are on disability, according to the Social Security Administration.

Also this week, government figures reveal that a record number are getting food stamps and the figure will keep rising. This is not surprising since the Obama Administration has promoted the program like there’s no tomorrow in an effort to eradicate “food insecure households.” In fact, the administration has spent millions of dollars to recruit even more food-stamp recipients and has doled out hefty cash rewards to states that sign up the most people. One state even bragged about a $5 million performance bonus it got from the feds for its “swift processing of applications.”

This week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reveals that 45 million people—one out of every seven U.S. residents—got food stamps in 2011, a whopping 70% increase from 2007. This represents a cost of $72 billion for U.S. taxpayers, which is a substantial increase from $30 billion four years earlier. For at least the next two years the food-stamp rolls will get even bigger, according the CBO, which studies economic and budgetary issues for Congress. 

This undoubtedly leaves the out-of-control welfare program vulnerable to fraud and corruption. Just last month the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that allocates food stamps, published a scathing report detailing how many recipients use their benefits to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash, according to USDA watchdog.


In its quest to implement stealth amnesty, the Obama Administration is working behind the scenes to halt the deportation of certain illegal immigrants by granting them “unlawful presence waivers.”

The new measure would apply to illegal aliens who are relatives of American citizens. Here is how it would work, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement posted in today’s Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government; the agency will grant “unlawful presence waivers” to illegal aliens who can prove they have a relative that’s a U.S. citizen.

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Currently such aliens must return to their native country and request a waiver of inadmissibility in an existing overseas immigrant visa process. In other words, they must enter the U.S. legally as thousands of foreigners do on a yearly basis. Besides the obvious security issues, changing this would be like rewarding bad behavior in a child. It doesn’t make sense. 

But the system often causes U.S. citizens to be separated for extended periods from their immediate relatives,” according to the DHS. The proposed changes, first announced in January, will significantly reduce the length of time U.S. citizens are separated from their loved ones while required to remain outside the United States during the current visa processing system.

The administration also claims that relaxing the rule will also “create efficiencies for both the U.S. government and most applicants.” How exactly is not listed in the Federal Register announcement, which gives the public 60 days to comment. That’s only a formality since the DHS has indicated that the change is pretty much a done deal.

This appears to be part of the Obama Administration’s bigger plan to blow off Congress by using its executive powers to grant illegal immigrants backdoor amnesty. The plan has been in the works for years and in 2010 Texas’s largest newspaper published an exposé about a then-secret DHS initiative that systematically cancelled pending deportations. The remarkable program stunned the legal profession and baffled immigration attorneys who said the government bounced their clients’ deportation even when expulsion was virtually guaranteed.

In late 2011 a mainstream newspaper obtained internal Homeland Security documents outlining “sweeping changes” in immigration enforcement that halt the deportation of illegal aliens with no criminal records. This also includes a nationwide “training program” to assure that enforcement agents and prosecuting attorneys don’t remove illegal immigrants who haven’t been convicted of crimes. 

Judicial Watch has been a front runner in investigating the Obama Administration’s stealth amnesty program by pursuing DHS records concerning “deferred action” or “parole” to suspend removal proceedings against a particular group of individuals. Last spring JW sued DHS to obtain information because the agency ignored a federal public records request that dates back to July 2010.

Throughout the country, federal and local governments are going out of their way to accommodate illegal immigrants by offering them rights, privileges and costly perks never before available to those who violate the law.

In New York City for instance, officials have created a special scholarship fund specifically for undocumented aliens who want to attend college but don’t qualify for publicly-funded aid because they live in the U.S. illegally. The unique program was launched because state and federal lawmakers haven’t taken appropriate action to help illegal aliens. In New York state proposals to make government financial aid available for illegal aliens are currently pending in the legislature.

A couple thousand miles away in Texas the feds have opened a rather innovative, multi-million-dollar “detention” facility for illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. It’s more like a taxpayer-funded resort with scenic landscaping, a salad bar, library, internet access, cable television, indoor gym, soccer fields and basketball courts. Unarmed “resident advisors” patrol the facility in civilian clothes instead of armed guards.   

The new center cost U.S. taxpayers $32 million, according to a recent newspaper report, and houses 608. It sits on 29 acres of what was once farmland and was designed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to give detainees more freedom. It’s part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to reform the immigration detention system so that it’s more humane. Two similar centers are in the works in south Florida and northeastern Illinois. 

Earlier this month the administration issued new federal detention standards offering arrestees awaiting deportation a number of outrageous perks, including female hormone treatments for transgender men, abortions for women and “ethnically diverse” diet options. The “revised standards” will also improve medical and mental health services, increase access to legal services and religious opportunities, improve the process for reporting and responding to complaints and offer detainees with limited English proficiency translators.

Illegal immigrants will also receive generous and ethnically diverse options for a “nutritionally balanced diet,” an increase in visitation and better recreation programs and facilities. For instance, undocumented aliens in U.S. custody will now have access to a variety of exercise equipment, mandatory outdoor time in natural light and recreational options such as soccer, volleyball and basketball. Board games and television will be available as “sedentary activities.”

A Texas congressman who chairs the House Judiciary Committee says the new ICE detention manual sounds like a “hospitality guideline for illegal immigrants.” In a written statement posted on the committee’s website, the lawmaker, Lamar Smith, points out that the revised standards dramatically expand privileges and resources to illegal immigrants in federal custody “far and beyond” what’s required by law.       

In Arizona open borders advocates are designing a cell phone application to help illegal aliens who get arrested under the state’s new immigration control laws. It’s not clear if the app will receive any public funding, but the Latino rights group (Respect Respeto) behind it is affiliated with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) which annually rakes in millions of taxpayer dollars. In fact, the NCLR’s federal funding has skyrocketed since one of its top officials got a job in the Obama White House.    



While the Obama Administration promotes food stamps like there’s no tomorrow, the rolls are already higher than ever and so is the sort of fraud and corruption that often accompanies an out-of-control government program.

A record 46.3 million people—including some illegal immigrants—get taxpayer-funded food stamps at an annual cost of $76 billion, according to the agency that distributes the welfare benefit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This represents an increase of more than 16 million over the previous year, according to USDA figures. That’s because the administration is on a mission to eradicate “food insecure households.”

The effort includes a multi-million-dollar federal initiative to recruit even more food-stamp participants and hefty cash rewards for states that sign up the most people. A few months ago Oregon officials bragged that the USDA gave the state $5 million in “performance bonuses” for ensuring that residents eligible for food benefits receive them and for its “swift processing of applications.”

As if that weren’t enraging enough, this week the USDA Inspector General, the agency’s watchdog, revealed that many food-stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash, according to USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong.

Fong was testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. She told the panel that in the last five years 779 probes have resulted in 1,356 indictments, 944 convictions and 792 sanctions against individuals and businesses that have cheated the system. The fraud has cost taxpayers nearly $200 million, Fong said.

The inspector general provided lawmakers with a number of examples. Among them is an illegal immigrant store owner in Connecticut who got deported after being convicted of food-stamp trafficking. He reentered the U.S. to open several stores using fake names. In Florida a group of criminals defrauded the USDA welfare program to the tune of $6.2 million, Fong said.    

Additionally, thousands of people who are not eligible for food stamps are getting them by lying or using the social security number of dead individuals. In a check of just five states, the IG found that 8,594 recipients were receiving “improper payments.” In one unnamed state alone, Fong said the ineligible collectors are getting about $1.1 million each month.

The IG pointed out that, when this sort of fraud occurs, “families do not receive the intended nutritional assistance and retailers profit at the expense of the American public.” It also does nothing to help meet the president’s goal of eradicating “food insecure households.”

 

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