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June 17, 2011
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
DNC Fundraises from Inside the White House?
Has the Obama White House stolen a few pages from the Clintons’ well-worn campaign fundraising playbook? According to the Monday edition of The New York Times, recent secret meetings with Wall Street executives inside the Obama White House are more than raising eyebrows:
A few weeks before announcing his re-election campaign, President Obama convened two dozen Wall Street executives, many of them longtime donors, in the White House’s Blue Room.…
The event, organized by the Democratic National Committee, kicked off an aggressive push by Mr. Obama to win back the allegiance of one of his most vital sources of campaign cash — in part by trying to convince Wall Street that his policies, far from undercutting the investor class, have helped bring banks and financial markets back to health.
Of course the Obama White House response was predictable: “Nothing to see here.” Politico reported White House Press spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One, “What needs to be made clear is, contrary to suggestions otherwise, this was not a fundraiser.”
Really? Nothing wrong with the meeting? Then why was there no mention of it on the President’s public schedule?
“I’m not aware — I don’t remember. I actually wasn’t in this position,” Carney said defensively. (Actually, Politico notes Carney was in his position when the meetings took place. Carney came on board on February 16. The meetings were held on March 7.)
The parallels between the Obama Wall Street hustle and the Clintons’ infamous coffee klatches are way too obvious to ignore (even for the liberal press which has noted the similarities).
The Clinton White House was notorious for illegally using the White House facilities for political fundraising, from pimping out the Lincoln bedroom, to Al Gore’s calls to the Buddhist Monks, to the Clinton White House coffee meetings.
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The Clinton’s held more than 90 White House coffees for about 1,000 major contributors back in 1995 and 1996, as just one component of their massive and corrupt campaign fundraising operation. Some Democratic fundraisers explicitly sold invitations for $50,000 to $100,000 to the coffees with the president, vice president and their respective wives. You can see Hillary Clinton’s involvement in these illegal coffees nicely documented in her own calendars here.
Former Judicial Watch client and former Clinton fundraiser Johnny Chung personally forked over a $50,000 check to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff right on White House grounds. Of course, federal law prohibits fundraising activities on government property. But that didn’t stop the Clintons. (It never did.) Chung, incidentally, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and admitted that much of his largesse actually came from a Chinese military operative.
Now his cheerleading section in the press is quick to defend the president, saying that it is not yet known whether or not these Wall Street execs were expressly pumped for cash. But let’s be real about this. The president, through the DNC, didn’t invite his Wall Street friends over to the White House because he sincerely wanted their advice on the economy. No, the meetings and the president’s follow-up phone calls to those who could not attend had one purpose: To make his fundraising pitch. Even the liberal New York Times sees that.
And if I’ve learned one thing about how Washington politicians operate, it is this: When politicians operate in secret, their intentions are less than upstanding. There is a reason why this meeting was conveniently “left off” Obama’s public schedule.
Of course the Obama administration could erase all doubts about its intentions simply by keeping its promises on transparency. But this would require a major change in attitude and policy. Despite its protestations to the contrary, this administration remains secretive and hostile to the open records process, especially as it relates to the White House visitor logs. (See my recent congressional testimony on this point here.)
When he last ran for office, Barack Obama promised to rid the White House of special interests and lobbyists. Now he’s inviting them over for secret visits while withholding key records on who visits the White House and for what purpose.
But whatever details regarding these White House Wall Street meetings that remain obscured, this much we do know. Obama’s top fundraisers are rewarded with some pretty sweet jobs.
Again according to Politico:
More than two years after Obama took office vowing to banish “special interests” from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events, an investigation by iWatch News has found.
Carney’s response? The individuals hired by the Obama White House were highly qualified and just “happened to be donors.” Politico, highlighting reporting done by the Center for Public Integrity, reported that “80 percent of ‘bundlers’ who raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s campaign were given key administration posts.” That’s a pretty high rate of coincidence, wouldn’t you say?
Judicial Watch will not let these Chicago-style scandals sit and you can expect action on this from your watchdog in Washington in the coming weeks.
New Docs Show Intervention by Controversial Federal Agency in Foreclosure Crisis Negotiation
Many conservatives and even some liberals have complained about Obama’s penchant for appointing “czars” in order to avoid accountability under law. One of his most notorious is the Consumer Czar, Elizabeth Warren, who was recess appointed by Obama to help set up and run the monstrous new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
We recently uncovered documents indicating the CFPB has been intensely involved in a 50-state settlement discussion underway with the nation’s largest mortgage lenders regarding alleged improper foreclosure procedures. (Anti-business zealots in the Obama administration and state attorney general offices are trying to extract a $20 billion “settlement” from banks to settle paperwork issues related to foreclosures.)
The documents, obtained in response to open records requests with CFPB and the offices of attorneys general from all 50 states, seem to contradict Warren’s statements before Congress suggesting her office merely responded to requests for advice, but did not seek to push its views. (We initiated our investigation into the controversies surrounding Ms. Warren and the CFPB on March 22, 2011.)
During a March 16, 2011, hearing of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, Ms. Warren downplayed her agency’s involvement in the state settlement negotiations: “We have been asked for advice by the Department of Justice, by the Secretary of the Treasury, and by other federal agencies. And when asked for advice, we have given our advice.”
But this does not come close to telling the full story. Emails obtained by Judicial Watch from several states suggest her agency’s participation was far more intense and aggressive. Warren called emergency meetings by phone and in person with attorneys general nationwide to contribute unsolicited input on the matter. The documents also indicate that Warren’s office insisted on keeping its contact with the state attorneys general secret (which, as I’ve pointed out, is never a good sign).
For example, in a February 25, 2011, email to the Executive Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Iowa Assistant Attorney General Patrick Madigan wrote: “Elizabeth Warren would like to present the CFPB’s view on loan modifications.” And two weeks earlier, a similar email was distributed to NAAG’s Loss Mitigation Subgroup on Warren’s behalf. In an email on February 15 regarding that meeting, Madigan points out that “The CFPB wanted me to stress the confidential nature of this briefing.”
A March 22, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the CFPB for all records of Warren’s communications with each state’s attorney general produced a single heavily-redacted document respecting a February 24 meeting with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Now, this is particularly curious given the fact that state attorneys general nationwide have supplied dozens of documents to Judicial Watch showing contact between their offices and Warren’s, including emails establishing closed-door meetings between Warren and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on February 14 and March 7.
Several states refused to turn over responsive documents in their possession based on confidentiality concerns arising from, as the State of Colorado put it, “the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s participation in the ongoing investigation into bank and loan servicers mortgage processes.”
And what is the CFPB? It’s a new federal agency arising out of the laughably-named Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Act. The “Bureau” will officially gain its authority under the law on July 21, 2011. Many conservatives, including Judicial Watch, are concerned this agency will wield a tremendous amount of power with little oversight.
(By the way, Judicial Watch and other open government advocates were invited to meet with Ms. Warren to discuss transparency and other policy issues on April 16, 2011. I can tell you that was an interesting meeting!)
You can see how CFPB was born in an atmosphere of secrecy and cover-up. Certainly the fact that the CFPB has been unwilling to abide by FOIA law makes it appear the agency has something to hide from the American people. And given Warren’s radical tendencies and the fact that she was not subject to vetting by the U.S. Senate, we need absolute transparency from the CFPB.
Elizabeth Warren, as we’ve alerted you in the past, is an ardent “progressive,” who was named by President Obama as the interim head of the CFPB, a maneuver nakedly designed to avoid the likelihood of her not being confirmed by the U.S. Senate because of her left-of-center views. For example, in a blog she authored on the mortgage lending industry, Warren wrote, “Big corporate interests, led by the consumer finance industry, are devouring families and spitting out the bones.”
Do we really want this radical to head an agency that will give the federal government an unprecedented level of control over the private sector, with no oversight? Certainly not.
Houston Sanctuary Policy Keeps Illegal Alien Sex Trafficking Operation in Business
Houston clearly has a problem.
Update readers may recall, following a comprehensive two-year-long investigation, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in September 2009 against the City of Houston, the Houston Police Department and Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt on behalf of Houston Police Sergeant Joslyn M. Johnson. Sergeant Johnson is the widow of former Houston Police officer Rodney J. Johnson, killed in the line of duty by an illegal alien five years ago, on September 21, 2006.
This particular illegal alien, Juan Leonardo Quintero-Perez, had been previously deported and had numerous run-ins with the Houston Police Department. But because of Houston’s illegal alien sanctuary policy, he was allowed to roam the streets until he shot and killed Officer Johnson during a routine traffic stop. Sergeant Johnson argues Houston’s sanctuary policy not only killed her husband but also compromises her ability to enforce the law and uphold her oath as a police officer.
Well, now Judicial Watch has uncovered yet another massive scandal related to Houston’s illegal alien sanctuary policy.
JW investigators recently obtained documents from the Houston Police Department detailing a shocking sex trafficking operation run by illegal aliens, including a former prostitute, Maria Rojas, who had previously been deported. Importantly, the evidence uncovered by Judicial Watch shows the criminal activity continued unfettered for almost a decade right under the noses of Houston police officers who were hamstrung by the Houston Police Department’s sanctuary policy.
According to the documents, police officers responded to service calls to the business co-owned by Ms. Rojas on at least 60 occasions, and were well aware of the criminal activity taking place at these establishments, but apparently did not check the immigration status of any of the arrestees or Ms. Rojas. (This is consistent with Houston PD General Order 500-5, which prohibits police officers from inquiring about the citizenship status of any person.)
On February 17, 2011, after a three-year investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced the indictment of Maria Rojas and her brother, Jose Luis Rojas, on sex trafficking conspiracy charges. They and eight co-defendants were also charged with conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. Maria Rojas, who was deported following a 1999 arrest for prostitution, was charged with illegally reentering the country after deportation.
The indictment alleges that Maria and Jose Luis Rojas ran a sex slave trafficking ring since at least August 1999. The scheme involved luring young women into the country illegally from Mexico with false promises of employment, then forcing them to work as prostitutes at La Costeñita Bar and El Club Restaurante in Houston. Maria Rojas and Javier Guevara Belmontes (a legal resident) co-owned the locations. The remaining defendants were illegal aliens who served as managers or employees of the businesses.
Judicial Watch filed an open records request with the Houston Police Department seeking documents related to police contacts with the individuals named in the indictment and police activity at the locations related to the conspiracy. Documents produced to Judicial Watch from the HPD show law enforcement officers responded to service calls at the businesses co-owned by Maria Rojas on 60 occasions over a five year period and to a residence co-owned by Maria Rojas and Javier Belmontes on an additional eight occasions:
- Police documented 48 calls for service to La Costeñita between 2006 and 2011. Nine of these events involved vice squad investigations and/or arrests for prostitution, and during this time frame 12 individuals were arrested for prostitution. There were 17 cases of assault (including three shootings and a stabbing). There was one cocaine possession arrest (in May 2008) and one armed robbery arrest (in December 2007).
- There were 12 documented police calls for service to El Club Restaurante between 2006 and 2010. These included four burglaries, two assaults and a shooting.
- Between May 2006 and November 2010, Houston police responded to the residence of Maria Rojas and Javier Belmontes eight times. On three occasions, police spoke with and documented a complaint by Jose Luis Rojas. On November 1, 2010, Jose Luis Rojas reported an armed robbery by six unknown assailants. Three weeks later, Jose Luis Rojas reported receiving a telephonic death threat.
According to the Houston Chronicle, police officers were well aware of the illegal activity taking place at the La Costeñita location: “so notorious is the bar that undercover Texas alcohol investigators long ago documented its seedy intricacies: an escape hatch, a hidden passageway leading to decrepit and gated houses of prostitution described as ‘horse stalls.’ Federal, state and local agents learned by name and face many key characters who operated La Costeñita and made repeated—but only partially successful efforts—to stop them.”
Despite the repeated police visits to these establishments, Maria and Jose Luis Rojas continued to operate their sex trafficking operation. A simple check with ICE about Ms. Rojas, any of the arrestees, or the young girls forced into prostitution, would have indicated their illegal status, and might have led to the earlier termination of the sex slave trafficking ring.
However, Houston is a de facto sanctuary city because of Houston PD General Order 500-5. The order, signed by former chief Sam Nuchia in January 1990, states, in part, that “officers shall not make inquiries as to the citizenship status of any person, nor will officers detain or arrest persons solely on the belief that they are in this country illegally. Officers will contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regarding a person only if that person is arrested on a separate criminal charge (other than a class C misdemeanor) and the officer knows the prisoner is an illegal alien.”
Sanctuary policies in Houston allowed young women to be victimized by illegal alien sex traffickers. Houston and other sanctuary cities undermine the rule of law and thwart control of our borders. And they lead to the brutal crimes associated with human trafficking. So while the Obama administration goes after Arizona for furthering our nation’s immigration laws, it ignores cities like Houston that think they don’t have to obey laws concerning illegal immigration.
Until next week…
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