Judicial Watch • Two Court Victories for Judicial Watch

Two Court Victories for Judicial Watch

Two Court Victories for Judicial Watch

OCTOBER 03, 2008


October 3, 2008


From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

District Court Rules against National Archives in Judicial Watch’s Lawsuit to Obtain Hillary’s Health Care Records from Clinton Presidential Library

This was a big week for Judicial Watch with two major court victories on Tuesday, September 30th.

First off, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled against the National Archives refusing to dismiss the lawsuit we filed to obtain Hillary Clinton’s Health Care Task Force records from the Clinton Presidential Library. Judge Friedman also denied the Archives’ separate motion to stay (or delay) the lawsuit for one year and, adding insult to injury, chastised the Archives for not being better prepared to handle open record requests for the Clinton Presidential Library.

Ouch.

The National Archives filed its failed motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that Judicial Watch’s original Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was overly broad. In the alternative, the Archives asked the court to stay the lawsuit for one year, citing a lack of resources and a backlog of requests. Judge Friedman rejected both requests. Here’s a quick excerpt from Judge Friedman’s ruling (which you can read in its entirety here):

"[The National Archives] argues that [Judicial Watch’s] request is inadequate because it is overbroad…otherwise valid FOIA requests are not overbroad or unreasonable simply because they seek a very large number of documents…[The Archives] should have been better prepared to process the large number of FOIA requests it received upon making President Clinton’s records available…The Court will deny defendant’s request for a stay of one year, and instead grant a stay of six months. Defendant is ordered to provide the Court with a status report regarding the processing of responsive documents approximately thirty days before the expiration of the stay."

So why are we after Hillary’s health care records?

Because we feel it is important for the American people to have the full story of Hillary Clinton’s time in the White House. (She is arguably the most powerful member of the U.S. Senate, and, of course, maintains even higher aspirations.) As we’ve argued many times, Hillary Clinton was more corrupt as a co-president than first lady and these records relate to Senator Clinton’s most infamous policy initiative, her failed attempt to implement a government takeover of the nation’s healthcare system.

Our investigation already uncovered documents that show how Hillary Clinton and the Clinton administration approached health care reform – secrecy, smears, and the misuse of government computers to track private and political information on citizens.

So far, a small category of Health Care Task Force-related documents have been released at the Clinton Presidential library, but the majority of these records have not been disclosed. You may recall that the National Archives has admitted in correspondence to Judicial Watch that there are approximately 3,022,030 textual records, 2,884 pages of electronic records, 1,021 photographs, 3 videotapes and 3 audiotapes that must be reviewed.

With respect to this ruling, we are pleased the court saw through the National Archives’ feeble attempt to stonewall the release of these records. It is time for the National Archives to stop stonewalling and to start complying with the law. In the meantime, we expect that the Clintons and the Bush White House will expedite the release of these documents as well.

And now, on to our second victory.

District Court to U.S. Secret Service: Release Records Related to Abramoff’s White House Visits to Judicial Watch within 20 Days

On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the U.S. Secret Service in Judicial Watch’s lawsuit to obtain visitor logs detailing corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s visits to the White House. The Court rejected the Secret Service’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and instead ordered the agency to finish processing Judicial Watch’s open records requests and provide all non-exempt records within 20 days of the court order. (The Court issued two separate opinions and court orders on Tuesday. Here are the links: Opinion 1, Opinion 2, Court Order 1, Court Order 2.)

The U.S. District Court ruled that the Secret Service had violated the Freedom of Information Act by not adequately searching certain White House visitor records that may contain information about Abramoff. Moreover, the Court also rejected all claims of exemption asserted by the Secret Service related to additional records uncovered by the agency subsequent to the filing of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit. The Secret Service had argued these additional visitor records, called "Sensitive Security Records," were so secret that it could "neither confirm nor deny" their existence.

The Court was having none of it.

"The Court finds that [The Secret Service] has not made a reasonable search and…has not convincingly shown that SSRs [Sensitive Security Records] fall within the claimed exemptions," state Judge Royce C. Lamberth in his opinion. "[The Secret Service] must move forward in full compliance with [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request."

Judicial Watch is after these logs for much the same reason we’re after Hillary’s White House records. We want to complete the public record. We believe the American people should have as much information as possible about the nature of the relationship between convicted felon Jack Abramoff, who is sitting in prison for his involvement in a web of political scandals and the White House.

We filed our original FOIA request on January 20, 2006, seeking all White House visitor logs from January 1, 2001, reflecting the entry and exit of Abramoff from the White House. The Secret Service has stonewalled every step of the way. In fact, at one point in response to a court order to release the records to Judicial Watch, the Secret Service provided incomplete non-official records forcing Judicial Watch to continue to battle the agency in court.

This latest claim of "super secret records" the Bush administration can’t even talk about is just another in a long line of stall tactics. We’re glad the Court saw through this gamesmanship and ruled against the Secret Service. We hope the Bush administration gets the message and stops trying to evade FOIA law.

JW Obtains Documents Related to Barack Obama’s Suspicious Pet Project

In his first three years in the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama requested hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks for pet projects for his state of Illinois. But it is an earmark he obtained while serving as a State Senator that has earned the attention of Judicial Watch (and the press).

Judicial Watch recently uncovered documentary evidence of a $100,000 grant obtained by Obama for a garden project in Englewood, Illinois, spearheaded by Obama’s former campaign volunteer Kenny Smith. (The documents obtained by Judicial Watch include all relevant correspondence between Smith, who runs the Chicago Better Housing Association, and the State of Illinois, the project application, the contract and a detailed budget.)

There’s only one problem. The "Englewood Botanical Garden" project never happened. In fact, according to the Chicago Sun Times, which has been covering the story, "today the garden site is a mess of weeds, chunks of concrete and garbage."

So if the Smith didn’t finish the garden project, what happened to all that money? The Illinois State Attorney General is investigating. More from the Chicago Sun Times:

A $100,000 state grant for a botanic garden in Englewood that then-state Sen. Barack Obama awarded in 2001 to a group headed by a onetime campaign volunteer is now under investigation by the Illinois attorney general amid new questions, prompted by Chicago Sun-Times reports, about whether the money might have been misspent.

The garden was never built. And now state records obtained by the Sun-Times show $65,000 of the grant money went to the wife of Kenny B. Smith, the Obama 2000 congressional campaign volunteer who heads the Chicago Better Housing Association, which was in charge of the project for the blighted South Side neighborhood.

Smith wrote another $20,000 in grant-related checks to K.D. Contractors, a construction company that his wife, Karen D. Smith, created five months after work on the garden was supposed to have begun, records show. K.D. is no longer in business.

When initially asked about the "Englewood Botanical Garden," Smith claimed he was never able to raise all the funds he needed to complete the project, but that the grant obtained by Obama on his behalf was spent properly on "underground site preparation." However, the contractor hired for that job, according to his recollection, was paid no more than $3,000 and claims all he did was clear a few trees.

Obama and Smith’s relationship goes back about ten years or so. The pair announced the project at a January 2000 press conference during Barack Obama’s failed bid to win a seat in the U.S. Congress. To some, $100,000 may not sound like a lot of money in the grand scheme of things (especially as Congress considers a $700 billion Wall Street bailout) but this is yet another in a long line of suspicious Obama relationships. (See William Ayers, James Johnson, and Antoin "Tony" Rezko, to name just a few.)

To view the Obama "Garden" documents, click here.

Judicial Watch to Use Open Records Process to Probe Fannie and Freddie

There may be one benefit to the government’s recent massive bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Judicial Watch should be able to use federal open records and open meetings laws to investigate their inner workings now that they are both essentially owned and operated by the U.S. government.

Judicial Watch is currently preparing its initial batch of Freedom of Information Act requests related to Fannie and Freddie to learn as much as possible about how these two hybrid public-private entities operate. (Judicial Watch has had enormous success in forcing the release of government documents into the public domain. Click here to check out some of the documents we’ve uncovered. And click here to get Judicial Watch’s "Open Records Handbook" so you can learn how you can file Freedom of Information Act requests on your own.)

News reports indicate that the feds issued subpoenas this week in their own "too little, too late" investigation. This according to The Associated Press:

Adding to their woes, mortgage finance giants Fannie Mac and Freddie Mac are facing a federal grand jury investigation into their accounting practices.

The mortgage finance companies said Monday that a federal grand jury in New York is investigating accounting, disclosure and corporate governance issues at Washington-based Fannie and McLean, Va.-based Freddie.

Fannie and Freddie said they received subpoenas Friday from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan as well as requests from the Securities and Exchange Commission that they preserve documents.

Unfortunately, according to the AP, the government’s investigation will only involve activities from 2007. Of course, as I explained last week, the problems with Fannie and Freddie go back much further back than that and involve two key political operatives, former Clinton budget Director Franklin Raines and James Johnson, the former head of Obama’s vice presidential vetting committee and current campaign consultant, both of whom served as CEO of Fannie Mae.

Under Johnson’s leadership, Fannie Mae improperly deferred $200 million in expenses in 1998 enabling top executives (including Johnson) to receive substantial bonuses according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

Then, in 1999, at the behest of the Clinton administration, Raines presided over a program to provide mortgage loans to low income individuals who would not otherwise qualify for them. This subprime lending scheme spiraled out of control right under the noses of members of Congress from both political parties, many of whom received massive amounts of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to keep them in line.

There is much blame to go around for the state of the mortgage lending industry and the economy. Members of both parties have their fingerprints all over this mess.

Hopefully, our FOIA work can hold some of these politicians to account.

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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