August 21, 2009
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
JW Sues Treasury for Records on TARP Funds Distributed to Boston Bank after Intervention by Rep. Barney Frank
Barney Frank is no stranger to scandal. As you may recall, Judicial Watch uncovered documents proving that Frank was well aware of massive problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even while he blocked attempts by Congress to rein them in. Frank, of course, has been the beneficiary of tens of thousands of dollars from the two mortgage giants over the last decade in campaign contributions, which might help explain why he allowed the Fannie and Freddie to run wild.
(As you may recall, just weeks ago, Frank called on Fannie and Freddie to relax mortgage standards yet again, even though such risky lending practices facilitated the collapse of the economy.)
Now there is a fresh influence peddling scandal brewing, this time involving the allocation of funds from TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program).
Last week, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department to obtain records related to evaluation procedures used by the government to determine which financial institutions received funds from TARP. Of particular interest to Judicial Watch is a $12 million TARP cash injection provided to the Boston-based OneUnited Bank at the urging of — you guessed it — Barney Frank.
Here’s what we’re after:
a. Any and all records concerning evaluation procedures for federal banking agencies and the Treasury Department to distribute/award TARP Funds.
b. Correspondence with Congressman Barney Frank or any representative of his office concerning TARP Funds and/or any bank in Massachusetts.
c. Any and all records concerning OneUnited Bank in Boston, Massachusetts, (including correspondence from any lobbyist, correspondence from any other government agency, correspondence with any elected government official, correspondence directly with the Bank, the Bank’s application for TARP funds, etc).
The Treasury Department has acknowledged that it did receive Judicial Watch’s FOIA request but has provided no documents, and has failed to inform Judicial Watch when a response to its request will be forthcoming. By law, Treasury was required to respond to Judicial Watch’s request by March 9, 2009, (following a 10-day extension Treasury granted to itself to conduct a review).
What is so suspicious about this OneUnited Bank TARP grant?
The Treasury Department has said from the beginning of its TARP program that it would only provide funds to healthy banks to jump-start lending. Not only was OneUnited Bank in massive financial turmoil, but it was also "under attack from its regulators for allegations of poor lending practices and executive-pay abuses, including owning a Porsche for its executives’ use."
Congressman Frank admitted he spoke to a "federal regulator" and then Treasury granted the funds.
TARP has created a whole new form of earmarking, where politicians lobby to receive mass cash infusions for special interests in their states. OneUnited Bank did not appear to be a suitable candidate for federal assistance until Barney Frank intervened and shook loose a $12 million TARP grant. Indeed, OneUnited recently fell behind in its required dividend payments to Treasury as required under TARP. The American people deserve to know if Congressman Frank’s intervention improperly colored the decision to give precious tax dollars to his hometown bank. That’s why we’re pursuing this information so aggressively. More to come…
JW Files Landmark Lawsuit to Obtain Documents Regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Political Contributions
It’s no secret that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac spread around millions of dollars to allies on the Hill to make certain they could conduct their corrupt activities without fear of repercussion. We want to bring to light all of the facts regarding the shady tactics employed by the two mortgage giants. That’s why Judicial Watch recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the government agency that now controls Fannie and Freddie.
We submitted our initial FOIA request on May 29, 2009, trying to get our hands on the following documents:
a. Any and all Freddie Mac and/or Fannie Mae records concerning political campaign contributions.
b. Any and all Fannie Mae and/or Freddie Mac records concerning policies, stipulations, and/or requirements concerning campaign contributions.
Now, FHFA officials acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA request in a July 1, 2009, letter but claimed they had no documents responsive to Judicial Watch’s request. At the same time, however, the letter also stated that while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might well possess the requested documents, the FHFA was not obligated to release them under FOIA allegedly because they do not "control" them.
Fannie and Freddie are in conservatorship under FHFA, which has full control over the two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), including their records. In addition to the $840 billion in taxpayer funds (from the Fed and Treasury) already spent on behalf of Fannie and Freddie, taxpayers face a potential liability of $5.4 trillion.
And how bad was the influence peddling problem at Fannie and Freddie?
Overall, members of Congress have received more than $4.8 million in political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the last ten years. According to OpenSecrets.org, from 1998 through 2008, the top ten recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s political largess, are as follows: Senator Dodd (D-CT), then-Senator Obama (D-IL), Senator Kerry (D-MA), Senator Bennett (R-UT), Rep. Bachus (R-AL), Rep. Blunt (R-MO), Rep. Kanjorski (D-PA), Senator Bond (R-MO), Senator Shelby (R-AL), Senator Reed (D-RI).
Senator Dodd, the top recipient of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac campaign contributions, is Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee responsible for regulating the mortgage industry. Notably, President Obama was a top recipient of campaign monies despite being in the Senate for only three years.
So much for the new era of transparency from the Obama administration. The federal government’s decision to deny Judicial Watch access to these records conveniently protects President Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and members of both political parties on the Hill.
Fannie and Freddie funneled "profits" from backing risky mortgages to politicians like Barack Obama. In turn, these politicians protected Fannie and Freddie from proper oversight of the risks they were taking with taxpayer-backing. This fundamentally corrupt scheme led to the collapse of the housing market and precipitated the financial crisis.
No wonder the Obama administration doesn’t want us to see what is in Fannie’s and Freddie’s records.
Judicial Watch Warns Fremont, California Regarding Illegal Immigration Sanctuary Policy
Judicial Watch’s nationwide campaign to enforce immigration laws continues, this time involving an illegal alien sanctuary policy implemented by the Fremont, California, Police Department. On August 17, Judicial Watch sent a letter to the Fremont PD to register our objection to this dangerous and illegal policy.
At issue here is the Fremont PD’s "Notification of Immigration and Customs Enforcement." This directive, implemented in September 2008, describes the restricted circumstances under which a police officer may inform federal immigration officials of an arrestee’s legal status.
Here’s the problem: Federal law requires that government entities cannot place any restrictions on the ability of police officers to communicate with ICE about anyone’s immigration status.
Specifically, here is what two federal statutes say about this issue:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, a Federal, State, or local government entity or official my not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now Immigration and Customs Enforcement) information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual. (Title 8 United States Code Section 1373)
"Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, no State or local government entity may be prohibited, or in any way restricted, from sending to or receiving from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now Immigration and Customs Enforcement) information regarding the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of an alien in the United States." (Title 8 United States Code Section 1644)
Is there anything about these statutes which strikes you as ambiguous or open to interpretation? The Fremont PD directive also seems to be in conflict with California State law as well.
Despite clear federal and state laws mandating free communication between local law enforcement entities and federal immigration officials, time again, local officials continue to implement so-called sanctuary policies that impede communication. This illegal practice is far too common and it must stop.
As you are probably aware, Judicial Watch recently petitioned the California Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling on Judicial Watch’s lawsuit over the LAPD’s illegal alien sanctuary policy, Special Order 40. A lower court ruled (erroneously in our view) that the lawsuit could not proceed to trial.
And, of course, Judicial Watch earned a huge victory when a California appellate court ruled that the San Francisco Police Department must comply with a state law requiring police officers to notify federal authorities when they arrest a person for various narcotics offenses whom they suspect to be an alien, legal or illegal. The San Francisco Police Department had argued that requiring police officers to share information with federal immigration officials was unconstitutional because it would invade the federal government’s exclusive power to regulate immigration. The court didn’t buy it, as the law in question didn’t require the state to regulate immigration but simply to notify the proper authorities when an alien was arrested for drug crimes.
Judicial Watch is committed to doing what it can to ensure that "don’t ask, don’t tell" illegal alien sanctuary policies are abolished. And that includes opposing the sanctuary directive in Fremont, California. I’ll have more for you on this in upcoming installments of the Weekly Update. In the meantime, I encourage you to contact your local police and government officials, and inquire whether police are prevented from communicating from ICE about a person’s immigration status. If your local police are so constrained, you live in a sanctuary community that may be in violation of federal law.
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.