Judicial Watch • The Good Guys Win

The Good Guys Win

The Good Guys Win

APRIL 29, 2011

April 29, 2011

From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

Judicial Watch Forces New Jersey School to Abandon Discounted Tuition for Illegal Aliens

In a dramatic and clear-cut victory for the rule of law, Judicial Watch forced the County College of Morris (CCM) in New Jersey to reverse an unlawful policy which allowed illegal aliens discounted tuition at the school! As expected, the decision came down last Thursday. The headline of a New Jersey Daily Record article the following day tells the whole story: “Lawsuit Worries Prompted Reversal on College Tuition for Illegal Immigrants.”

As reported by the Daily Record:

One County College of Morris trustee mentioned the prospect of being sued and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills. Others said legal considerations played a part in their deliberations over tuition rates for illegal immigrants.

In the weeks leading up to their vote…CCM’s trustees had received letters from freeholders and a national conservative group called Judicial Watch saying they were violating federal laws. Concerns about those laws, and the possibility of lawsuits, seemed to spur a 9-2 vote to charge higher, out-of-state rates to undocumented students even if they live in the county.

Indeed, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Judicial Watch sent a letter to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for CCM challenging the school’s policy of providing discounted tuition for “undocumented” aliens. CCM immediately informed Judicial Watch that it had commenced a review of its tuition policy. And one week later, the school’s trustees voted to overturn a policy they had established just two months prior.

The chair of the Board of Trustees suggested Judicial Watch had “bullied” the poor Board into reversing itself. My colleague, attorney Paul Orfanedes, answered this charge directly in the media:

‘If you think encouraging people to follow the law is bullying, then we are bullying,’ he said after being told Johnson had used the term ‘bullying’ to describe some of the reaction to CCM’s February policy change.

As you can see, sometimes even the threat of a lawsuit can work wonders! This is a tremendous victory for Judicial Watch and its supporters. And we are thrilled CCM’s Board of Trustees made the right decision to bring its tuition policy in line with federal law, even if some trustees may have been reluctant (to say the least).

You may recall Judicial Watch was tipped off to CCM’s illegal policy by the February 18, 2011, edition of The New Jersey Star-Ledger:

For the first time in nearly a decade, illegal immigrants will be allowed to take classes at the County College of Morris in a policy change that is drawing praise from some education officials and sharp criticism from immigration policy activists.

The trustees at the Randolph-based college voted 7-1 earlier this week to reverse a rule barring undocumented students, school officials said. Starting this summer, the public two-year college will be one of the first schools in New Jersey to openly acknowledge it is enrolling illegal immigrants and allowing them to pay the same tuition rate as other county residents.

(Prior to the policy change CCM had barred illegal aliens from admission to the school, so this was quite a switch.)

The article piqued the interest of JW’s lawyers and investigators, who obtained a copy of the CCM admissions policy. And sure enough, it clearly stated that any illegal alien who graduated from an American high school (or possesses a GED equivalent), was under the age of 35, and had lived in the U.S. for five consecutive years, would be eligible for admission. And the policy further stipulated that illegal alien students could pay a discounted in-county tuition rate!

As Judicial Watch noted in its letter, illegal aliens are ineligible for state and local public benefits, such as discounted tuition, under federal law:

There is no way to reconcile CCM’s policy with federal law. The policy provides a public benefit to individuals who are clearly ineligible for benefits [under federal law], and New Jersey has not authorized the provision of such benefits…CCM may not ignore federal laws when those laws are not consistent with its own policy preferences. We hope that CCM will reevaluate its new policy and conform it to the requirements of federal law.

And that’s exactly what happened.

This is not our first attempt to stop institutions of higher education from giving preferential treatment to illegal aliens.

We filed a taxpayer lawsuit in January against the Board of Trustees of Maryland’s Montgomery College for unlawfully allowing discounted “in-county” tuition rates for students graduating from Montgomery County public high schools, regardless of their place of residency or immigration status. (Click here for more information.) In response to our lawsuit, the Maryland Legislature bailed the school out by passing legislation authorizing the illegal alien tuition policy. The good news, however, is that this decision may now be subjected to a voter referendum.

As you can see, Judicial Watch has taken on a leadership role in the debate over taxpayer-financed in-state tuition for illegal aliens. And we will not slow down. We are currently considering action and legal challenges in other states. So stay tuned….

Ensign Resigns

Say goodbye to yet another member of JW’s list of Washington’s Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians: Senator John Ensign (R-NV). Ensign recently announced his resignation effective May 3. According to The Los Angeles Times:

Nevada Sen. John Ensign, facing an ethics investigation stemming from his affair with a campaign aide, will resign Friday, his office announced.

The senator’s decision was met with a collective sigh of relief — and little surprise — in his home state, where Ensign’s scandals have dominated headlines for nearly two years.

Ensign, a Republican, had announced in March that he would not seek a third term in 2012, saying he wanted to spare his family from an ‘exceptionally ugly’ campaign.

Ensign announced he would resign with more than 20 months left to go on his term. The conventional wisdom was that the move might spare him from an “exceptionally ugly” Senate Ethics Committee “trial.” But not so fast says The Washington Post: “The Senate Ethics Committee is pushing ahead with its investigation of Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) despite his announcement that he would resign, an unusual move that, legal observers said, demonstrates the panel’s resolve to at least issue a public rebuke.”

What did Senator Ensign do to deserve the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee in the first place? Take a look at an excerpt from his 2010 entry on our Top Ten list. As you’ll see, it’s not just the affair, which is certainly bad enough, it’s also the cover-up:

In a scandal that first broke in 2009, Senator Ensign publicly admitted to an affair with the wife of a long-time staffer. And the evidence indicates Ensign then tried to cover up his sexual shenanigans by bribing the couple with lucrative gifts and political favors.

According to The New York Times, after Ensign’s aide, Douglas Hampton, discovered the affair, ‘Mr. Ensign asked political backers to find a job for…Hampton. Payments of $96,000 to the Hamptons also were made by Senator Ensign’s parents, who insist this was a gift, not hush money. Once a lobbying job was secured, Senator Ensign and his chief of staff continued to help Mr. Hampton, advocating his clients’ cases directly with federal agencies.’

These lobbying activities were seemingly in violation of the Senate’s ‘cooling off’ period for lobbyists. According to The Wall Street Journal, ‘Under Senate rules, former Senate aides cannot lobby their former colleagues for one year after leaving Capitol Hill.’ Hampton began to lobby Mr. Ensign’s office immediately upon leaving his congressional job.

Ensign seems to have ignored the law and allowed Hampton lobbying access to his office as a payment for his silence about the affair. And despite the claims of Ensign and his parents, the $96,000 in “gifts” provided to the Hamptons were clearly hush payments.

The Obama Justice Department suggested that it will not file criminal charges against Ensign, while the Federal Election Commission has also dismissed a related ethics complaint. But I’m glad to see the federal government’s unwillingness to enforce the law did not rob the public of a measure of justice in this case. (Though, as the Justice Department did charge Mr. Hampton recently for violating the lobbying law, one might hope that Ensign is next to be charged.)

Ensign is just another in a growing list of former Top Ten members who have been held accountable or were forced from office due to the weight of their transgressions. It includes Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), former Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX), former Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ), former Rep. William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson (D-LA), former Senator John Edwards (D-NC), former Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), and disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Now if we can just get the House Ethics Committee to move on its “stuck-in-the-mud” Maxine Waters investigation maybe we can get accountability for one more corrupt politician on our list.

White House Visitor Logs “Riddled with Holes”

Remember when the Obama White House proudly announced it would make records of White House visitors publicly available as a demonstration of the president’s “commitment to transparency?” Well, this announcement may have played well in the lap-dog press, but when you dive into the details, it appears these White House logs are “riddled with holes,” rendering the grand Obama promise into nothing more than political posturing.

According to the Center for Public Integrity:

The [White House visitor] logs are…incomplete for thousands of…visitors to the White House, including lobbyists, government employees, campaign donors, policy experts, and friends of the first family, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.

The White House website proudly boasts of making available ‘over 1,000,000 records of everyone who’s come through the doors of the White House’ via a searchable database.

Yet the Center’s analysis shows that the logs routinely omit or cloud key details about the identity of visitors, who they met with, the nature of the visit, and even includes the names of people who never showed up. These are critical gaps that raise doubts about their historical accuracy and utility in helping the public understand White House operations from social events to meetings on key policy debates.

Now Judicial Watch has been all over the White House visitor logs issue for a very long time. (And we were happy to help the Center for Public Integrity on its story.) In fact, 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 all the way back in 2006.

When Obama assumed the presidency, we continued our aggressive pursuit of White House visitor logs. We believe the American people deserve to know who is coming in and out of the White House and that the law requires this information be made public – in full. We 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. We were told that the visitor logs belonged to the White House, that the logs were subject to the Presidential Records Act, and, therefore, would not be released.

Judicial Watch immediately went public with the Obama administration’s ridiculous position on the release of the visitor logs, and earned quite a bit of press attention on the matter. And that, in turn, earned the attention of White House officials.

And so, in the fall of 2009, JW staff was “invited” to visit with senior White House official Norm Eisen, then-Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government (Ethics Czar), to discuss Judicial Watch’s pursuit of the White House visitor logs. The White House encouraged us to publicly praise the Obama administration’s commitment to transparency, saying it would be good for them and good for us. However, the Obama team refused to abandon their legally indefensible contention that Secret Service’s White House visitor logs are not subject to disclosure under FOIA law. So we filed a lawsuit in December 2009 to ask the court to enforce the law.

(This lawsuit, incidentally, is still ongoing. The White House is sticking to its bogus line that there will be “dire national consequences” if these records are released and that they may be kept secret. And we are sticking to our argument that the law and court precedent mandate that they be released. Click here to read more.)

As all of this back and forth was going on behind the scenes, the Obama White House publicly announced its new “plan” to make these logs public, which, as we now see, is just another broken Obama promise on transparency. (Tens of thousands of documents continue to be withheld.) The Obama White House has no incentive to make sure the White House visitor records are accurate because it thinks it is above the law and does not have to answer to a court about how the records are maintained. That’s where we come in. Our lawsuit is the best hope for ensuring that this abuse of office by President Obama is stopped.

If you want to know about all of the other Obama broken promises on transparency, check out the testimony I recently provided to Congress during Sunshine Week. As you may recall, I testified before committees in the House and Senate and gave the Obama administration a “failing grade” on transparency. And, as I think you’ll see, I was well justified in making this assessment.

Next Tuesday, May 3, I’m scheduled to testify to Congress on this very issue. Judicial Watch has been invited to present testimony to the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearing, entitled “White House Transparency, Visitor Logs and Lobbyists,” is another opportunity for your Judicial Watch to educate the American people and the new Tea Party Congress about our important transparency and anti-corruption work.

JW Victory! Double-Dipping Police Chief Resigns

I want to close with another solid Judicial Watch victory. Remember that double-dipping Police Chief in Phoenix, Jack Harris? Well he won’t be double-dipping anymore. Here’s the story according to AZ Central:

Embattled Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack Harris has retired after being sidelined in his job as police chief and facing constant fire from critics.

Harris submitted notice of his retirement in a terse one-sentence memo to Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher on Friday morning.

Harris and top officials at City Hall refused to discuss the timing of his departure, although it had been rumored in recent weeks that Harris’ exit was imminent. Mayor Phil Gordon said he regretted the retirement, calling it a lamentable result of ‘vindictive’ political maneuvering.

Judicial Watch was certainly one of Harris’ leading “critics,” but there was nothing “vindictive” or “political” about this, as Mayor Gordon (who has his own problems with the law) irresponsibly suggests. We filed a lawsuit on behalf of concerned taxpayers to stop Harris from double-dipping into the government’s coffers. In 2007, Harris retired as Police Chief only to be rehired later for essentially the same position. And yet he continued to receive his pension benefit in violation of the law. When a chief of police gets paid both a salary and pension for the same position, it is no wonder that government budgets get out of control! (Harris also became embroiled in a scandal involving inflated crime statistics and federal “stimulus” funds.)

I think one of the themes of this week’s Update is that there are many ways to achieve victories against corruption. Sometimes they come by way of a dramatic court ruling. But other times justice can be achieved merely by standing strong for the rule of law and making the road so difficult for the corrupt party to continue their behavior that they simply quit. The County College of Morris, Senator John Ensign and Police Chief Harris are three good examples of this and good examples of the results of your strong support of our work.

Until next week…



Tom Fitton
President


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.

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