From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Obama’s "Screwed Up" Presidential Appointments
This has been a rather inauspicious start for the new president, at least as far as his presidential appointments are concerned. This week, Barack Obama was forced to admit that he "screwed up" on a couple of his key appointees, most notably former Senator Tom Daschle, Obama’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Daschle stepped down on Tuesday after news broke that he failed to pay nearly $150,000 in back taxes. (Daschle did ultimately make good on the bill last month, but it was too little too late.) Another appointee to be first federal "performance" officer, Nancy Killefer, also withdrew because of an old tax lien.
Here’s the scoop according to The Associated Press:
Barack Obama on Tuesday gave up his nomination fight for Tom Daschle and a second high-profile appointee who failed to pay all their taxes, fearing ugly confirmation battles that would undercut his claims to ethical high ground and cripple his presidency in just its second week. "I screwed up," he declared…
…"I’m frustrated with myself, with our team. … I’m here on television saying I screwed up," Obama said in an interview on NBC’s "Nightly News with Brian Williams." He repeated virtually the same words in several other interviews."
What was the screw up? Was it that Obama and his team defended the non-payment of taxes as no big deal, that he didn’t vet his nominees, that he let tax cheat Geithner continue to serve as head of Treasury?
As I pointed out back in November, tax scandal aside, Daschle was a terrible choice to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. After losing his last campaign and leaving the Senate, Daschle served as a board member for the Mayo Clinic and an advisor to the law firm Alston Baird, which represents pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers.
Given that Daschle would have been asked to spearhead Obama’s massive healthcare system overhaul, there were significant conflicts of interest that should have rendered him ineligible to serve in this capacity. Virtually every decision he would have been asked to make would have impacted his old friends, clients and colleagues – not to mention the new business his lobbyist wife was sure to get as head of her own lobbying firm.
So, yes, I agree with Barack Obama. He did "screw up" in nominating Daschle. But it doesn’t stop there. Bill Richardson was forced to remove his name from consideration as Secretary of Commerce due to a pending grand jury investigation. And then there are the others who are either confirmed or soon-to-be confirmed. They include: Eric Holder (Attorney General), Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State), Greg Craig (White House Counsel), Leon Panetta (CIA), Janet Napolitano (Secretary of Homeland Security), Timothy Geithner (Secretary of Treasury). All of these appointees are loaded with significant ethical baggage.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Barack Obama has a blind spot when it comes to ethics, both his own and those of his corrupt associates. This blind spot does not serve him (or the nation) well.
JW Investigates Former Treasury Secretary Paulson’s Meeting with Bank Execs
On October 13, 2008, with the federal government in a full-scale panic over the melt-down of the financial markets, then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson called the heads of the six major banks to the table to strike a deal. This is what Business Week reported at the time:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson appeared close to completing a deal on the next stage of the massive package to rescue the financial sector and get the frozen credit markets working again. Paulson called in the heads of six major banks to discuss the plans on the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 13. Soon thereafter, the Wall Street Journal reported that regulators plan to devote $250 billion of the $700 billion recently approved by Congress to buy direct equity stakes in financial institutions in return for preferred shares.
Some reports suggest that Paulson made an offer the banks couldn’t refuse, which sounds like something out of Venezulan strongman Hugo Chavez’s economic playbook. The net result of this meeting was a massive expansion of the federal government’s ownership of private financial institutions, to the point where I doubt today if anyone can truly put a number on it. (The figures tossed around today make $250 billion look like chump change.) Yet, given the enormous and long-term impact of the deal struck by Paulson, little is known about what transpired during this meeting.
Enter Judicial Watch.
On October 16, 2008, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the following information: "Any and all records pertaining to the Department of the Treasury’s meeting between Treasury Secretary Paulson and chief executive bankers on October 13, 2008, including but not limited to meeting notes, presentations, transcripts, agendas, and supplemental material."
The government initially requested additional time to process the request (aka "stonewalling"), and then failed to respond altogether. Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on January 26, 2009.
We don’t know what we’ll find. But regardless, the public has a right to know the truth — especially as the Obama administration plans to spend trillions of more dollars on bailouts.
FBI Cuts Ties with Radical Islamic Group
Let’s close with a victory this week. It appears the federal government is finally cutting its ties to the terrorist-front group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). According to Fox News:
The FBI is severing its once-close ties with the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, amid mounting evidence that it has links to a support network for Hamas.
All local chapters of CAIR have been shunned in the wake of a 15-year FBI investigation that culminated with the conviction in December of Hamas fundraisers at a trial where CAIR itself was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.
The U.S. government has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.
An official at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington confirmed to FOX News that his office directed FBI field offices across the country to cut ties with local branches of CAIR.
Now, I say the government "finally" cut ties because Judicial Watch and others have been trying to shut down CAIR since 2001.
In fact, just days after the attacks of September 11th, Judicial Watch filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service calling for the dissolution of 16 Muslim charities serving as front groups for terrorism. CAIR was on that list. Here’s how we put it in the complaint:
Judicial Watch, Inc., the public interest law firm that investigates and prosecutes government abuse and corruption, hereby files a complaint against certain tax exempt and other organizations that are, based on publically available information, reportedly being used as money laundering front organizations for radical Islamic terrorists, to include but not limited to associates of Osama bin Laden and "HAMAS," and their operations, in both the United States and abroad.
Judicial Watch also published a special report in 2007 entitled, "Muslim Charities: Moderate Non-Profits or Elaborate Deceptions," which provided an in-depth profile on CAIR, calling attention to the organization’s deep roots in the Islamic Jihad movement.
So what took the government so long to take action against CAIR? We asked a similar question of Steve Emerson in our monthly newsletter the Verdict back in 2007. Mr. Emerson, who is a leading expert in radical Muslim organizations and the founder of the Investigative Project in Washington, DC, stated that the government’s urgency in shutting down these front groups "is tempered by the constraints of when you can disclose intelligence and also, political correctness."
We’re glad the FBI finally got some sense and ditched a bit of their PC mentality. Now, rather than meeting with CAIR, the FBI can begin seriously investigating them.
Until next week…
Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation’s public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, click here.