From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
JW Sues Treasury Department to Obtain Documents on Bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
What is the Obama administration trying to hide? That’s a question I’ve had to ask myself quite a bit during the last six months as the Obama administration continues to stonewall the release of documents related to the government’s response to the financial crisis.
On July 29th, we were forced to file yet another Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Department of Treasury to obtain documents concerning the taxpayer bailouts of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Here’s what we’re after:
a. Documents concerning the U.S. Government’s intervention (bailout, capital injection, conservatory formation, etc.) for Freddie Mac (records include but are not limited to legal framework, consideration and documentation of foreign investors’ concerns, correspondence, etc.).
b. Documents concerning the U.S. Government’s intervention (bailout, capital injection, conservatory formation, etc.) for Fannie Mae (records include but are not limited to legal framework, consideration and documentation of foreign investors’ concerns, correspondence, etc.).
The bailouts of Fannie and Freddie have already cost taxpayers $86 billion – and are expected to cost up to $200 billion by the end of next year. We figure the American people deserve to know the truth about how these massive bailout deals were made behind closed doors. The Obama administration doesn’t share our desire for transparency.
Judicial Watch filed its initial FOIA request on February 5, 2009. By law, Treasury had until March 6, 2009, to respond. Instead, Treasury officials requested a 10-day extension to conduct a document review. However, since that time, Treasury has provided no documents and no indication when documents will be forthcoming. And that is why we filed the lawsuit.
Of course, this wasn’t our first FOIA lawsuit against the Obama Treasury Department over the financial crisis (and likely won’t be the last).
Earlier this year, you may recall, Judicial Watch had to sue the Obama Treasury Department in order to obtain documents regarding an historic meeting held by former Treasury Secretary Henry "Hank" Paulson with top bank executives. The documents show that Paulson and other officials, including then-NY Fed Reserve head and current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner forced the executives to take the government’s $250 billion "investment" (and resulting government control).
On his first day in office, President Obama promised that "transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency." The president further declared that "the Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable."
Looks good on paper, but this has not been the Obama administration’s policy. Not by a long shot.
We shouldn’t have to fight tooth and nail to obtain important information from the Obama administration related to the federal government’s response to the economic crisis. When is the Obama administration going to start keeping its promises of transparency?
JW Fights for Free Speech in Amicus Curiae Brief Filed in Supreme Court
In an unusual move, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a special session on September 9th to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit that could spell the end for the controversial (and unconstitutional) McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.
At issue is a 90-minute documentary about Hillary Clinton produced by the conservative organization Citizens United. In 2008, the Federal Election Commission, citing McCain-Feingold, prohibited the program from airing on television stations during election season. This prompted Citizens United to file a lawsuit to vindicate its First Amendment rights (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission).
This week, Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court that argues that the FEC’s decision to restrict the documentary’s broadcasting violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As a result, the Supreme Court will now decide whether to overturn two High Court precedents (Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission) that restrict corporate speech (which not only affects Citizens United, but your Judicial Watch).
Here are the four principle arguments in our brief (which can be read in full by clicking here):
Political Speech Is at the Heart of the First Amendment and Is Entitled to the Broadest Protection:
The [Supreme] Court…was solicitous to protect political speech not only as a matter of individual liberty, and not only because it was the intention of the Framers, but because political speech is crucial to the survival of our representative government and its system of ordered liberty. This principle, in turn, presupposes that First Amendment protection of political speech is the precondition of all other freedoms protected by the Constitution.
Unlike Contributions to Candidates, Independent Expenditures, Which Are Not Coordinated with a Candidate or Campaign, Do Not Pose a Danger of Corruption or its Appearance:
In essence, because as a nation we value free speech so highly, our government is permitted to regulate it only where the government’s interest is compelling and only to the extent absolutely necessary to achieve that interest… Independent expenditures…are not coordinated with a candidate or campaign [and] do not pose a danger of corruption or its appearance. This is because a candidate does not necessarily benefit from (and may well even be harmed by) an expenditure that is made independently of his campaign.
This Court Has Consistently Invalidated Legislative Attempts at Limiting or Restricting Corporate Expenditures as Violative of First Amendment Free Speech:
Clearly, this Court has consistently held that independent expenditures are protected speech which require the broadest protection by the First Amendment. This Court has also consistently invalidated legislative attempts at limiting or restricting corporate expenditures as violative of First Amendment free speech because the government’s interest in preventing corruption and the appearance thereof is inapplicable to independent expenditures, as there is no threat of a political quid pro quo with this type of core independent political expression.
Austin and McConnell Deviated from Established Precedent, and, as a Result, Should Be Overruled by this Court:
In Austin, the Court addressed a state statute that prohibited corporations from using "corporate treasury funds for independent expenditures in support of, or in opposition to, any candidate in elections for state office"… The Court did not find that the state had proven the existence of quid pro quo corruption or its appearance, "the only legitimate and compelling government interes[t] thus far identified for restricting campaign finances," NCPAC, 470 U.S. at 496, 497, but invented a new species of corruption: "the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporation’s political ideas." Austin, 494 U.S. at 654.
In McConnell, the Court upheld against a First Amendment challenge Congress’ amendment of the FECA provision prohibiting corporate independent expenditures…In short, McConnell suppresses speech that this Court has unambiguously held cannot be suppressed. It "compounds the error made in Austin…and silences political speech central to the civic discourse that sustains and informs our democratic processes." McConnell, 540 U.S. at 323 (Kennedy, J., Rehnquist, C. J., and Scalia, J., dissenting).
The bottom line in all of this, of course, is that McCain-Feingold violates the First Amendment by preventing corporations from using their own money independently to talk about politicians and public policy issues. As it relates to Judicial Watch, this law could prevent us from telling the truth about corrupt politicians close to an election. And that is something the First Amendment forbids and the Supreme Court should not accept.
Obama White House Adopts Low-ball Tactics from HillaryCare (Circa 1993)
As I’ve said many times before, past is prologue. Remember back in 1993 when Hillary Clinton attempted her government takeover of the nation’s healthcare system? She failed miserably. But in watching the Obama administration’s healthcare reform pressure campaign, it is clear that not only is Obama pushing Hillary-style government-run healthcare, he has also resorted to the same low-ball tactics used by Hillary in 1993.
In the last few months, the Obama administration refused to turn over a list of health industry officials who visited the White House, spread disinformation on his proposed plan and mobilized a mob of minions to attack opponents of his healthcare plan under the ironic moniker "fight the smears."
Does any of this sound familiar to you? It does to me.
In July 2008, Judicial Watch released documents obtained from the Clinton Presidential Library related to Hillary Clinton’s healthcare campaign. Check out just a few examples:
- A June 18, 1993, internal Memorandum entitled, "A Critique of Our Plan," authored by someone with the initials "P.S.," makes the startling admission that critics of Hillary’s health care reform plan were correct: "I can think of parallels in wartime, but I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy…Is the public really ready for this?… none of us knows whether we can make it work well or at all…" (Some guessed that the author of this memo is Paul Starr, who served as head of Hillary’s Health Care Task Force staff.)
- A "Confidential" May 26, 1993, Memorandum from Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Hillary Clinton entitled, "Health Care Reform Communications," which criticizes the Task Force as a "secret cabal of Washington policy ‘wonks’" that has engaged in "choking off information" from the public regarding health care reform. The memorandum suggests that Hillary Clinton "use classic opposition research" to attack those who were excluded by the Clinton Administration from Task Force deliberations and to "expose lifestyles, tactics and motives of lobbyists" in order to deflect criticism. Senator Rockefeller also suggested news organizations "are anxious and willing to receive guidance [from the Clinton Administration] on how to time and shape their [news] coverage."
- A February 5, 1993, Draft Memorandum from Alexis Herman and Mike Lux detailing the Office of Public Liaison’s plan for the health care reform campaign. The memorandum notes the development of an "interest group data base" detailing whether organizations "support(ed) us in the election." The database would also track personal information about interest group leaders, such as their home phone numbers, addresses, "biographies, analysis of credibility in the media, and known relationships with Congresspeople."
Lies, smears, and secrecy. All of these were hallmarks of Hillary Clinton’s efforts in 1993. Obama hired many a Clinton hack to work in his White House (such as Rahm Emanuel). So it is no surprise that the Clinton gang’s despicable tactics (some of which may be illegal) are being used by the Obama administration in their aggressive drive for socialized healthcare.
The more things "change" in Washington….
Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate 68-31 on Thursday afternoon. She became Justice Sotomayor this morning after her swearing in ceremony. Here’s the statement I offered to the press:
Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is a pyrrhic victory for President Obama. The president’s nomination of Judge Sotomayor has helped erode his popular support. Obama’s nominee proved an unpopular choice among the American people, including Hispanics, given her race-conscious and activist judicial philosophy. Even Judge Sotomayor was forced to disavow Obama’s lawless ’empathy’ standard in her quest for a seat on the High Court.
Republicans may finally understand that conservatives expect them to oppose activist judges who don’t respect the U.S. Constitution. And Democrats are surely hoping President Obama does not have any more Supreme Court nominations – especially any which would upset the Court’s current ideological make-up. All in all, this confirmation fight is a ‘job well done’ by the conservative voters and activists who made their voices heard.
Until next week…
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