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October 30, 2009
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Obama Rewards Party Donors with White House Perks
Remember the Clinton scandal from the 1990s when the Bill and Hillary shamelessly rented out the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House to top Democratic donors? Well, not to be outdone, it appears President Obama is now offering up the entire White House complex for sale.
This according to The Washington Times:
During his first nine months in office, President Obama has quietly rewarded scores of top Democratic donors with VIP access to the White House, private briefings with administration advisers and invitations to important speeches and town-hall meetings.
High-dollar fundraisers have been promised access to senior White House officials in exchange for pledges to donate $30,400 personally or to bundle $300,000 in contributions ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, according to internal Democratic National Committee documents obtained by The Washington Times.
One top donor described in an interview with The Times being given a birthday visit to the Oval Office. Another was allowed use of a White House-complex bowling alley for his family. Bundlers closest to the president were invited to watch a movie in the red-walled theater in the basement of the presidential mansion.
Now The White House, as expected, is downplaying the scandal. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in an email to reporters that “it’s no surprise” that some who have contributed to Democratic campaigns have visited The White House. But in his meandering justification, Pfeiffer managed to ignore the central charge against the Obama White House — that party donors given White House access and other perks in exchange for cash donations. Which, of course, could be in violation of a number of federal laws.
- Military Contracts Go To Firms Under Criminal Probe
- Charity Is Politicians’ Slush Fund
- Ohio Panders To Illegal Immigrants
- ACORN To Regulate Financial Institutions
- White House For Sale To Donors
- Illegal Aliens Abscond Under “Humane” ICE Program
- Obama Inflates Stimulus Job Stats
- Alabama Mayor Guilty Of 60 Corruption Charges
- Illegal Aliens Sue ICE Over Arrests
- Dozens Under House Ethics Probe
Pfeiffer also took his Clintonian defense of the Obama administration one giant step further, claiming that the administration has not only conducted itself with integrity in this situation, but that, overall, it has put into place the “toughest ethics standards in history.” Other than “ethics waivers,” enemies lists, government threats and attacks on businesses, media and talk radio hosts, and politicizing the NEA (see below), etc.?
And what about those White House visitor logs?
Pfeiffer boasted in his email defense that “for the first time in history, records detailing who visited the White House will be made public on a regular basis.”
But this doesn’t come close to telling the full story. The White House did promise that it will release some White House visitor logs in the future but it has not released visitor logs from the first nine months of the administration…which just happens to be the period of time these alleged donor visits took place. We, of course, are fighting to have all of the visitor logs released.
As we said in a press statement about this latest scandal, “Attorney General Holder can demonstrate his independence by appointing a special counsel to conduct an independent investigation of these serious allegations. In the meantime, the Obama White House needs to respond to our and others’ requests for information about White House visitors.”
Too many in the liberal media have fallen for their hero Obama’s line that this is a non-scandal. It will be up to honest news outlets and independent watchdogs like Judicial Watch to try to get to the full truth of this latest Obama scandal.
JW Unearths Documents On NEA’s 8/10 Conference Call Encouraging Artists to Promote Obama Political Agenda
Somehow, the NEA didn’t get “the memo” with respect to the “tough ethics standards” the Obama White House claims to have in full operation. You may recall, back in August, NEA Communications Director Yosi Sergant hosted a controversial conference call with artists and entertainers around the country to encourage them to produce art that promotes the Obama agenda. (The call was secretly recorded by one of the participants and exposed at www.BigGovernment.com.) That’s right — taxpayer-funded propaganda for the Obama big government political agenda.
“We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government,” Sergant said during the call.” “What that looks like legally. We’re still trying to figure out…”
Well, Yosi didn’t have much time to figure out the legal details after the call because he was immediately demoted once the scandal broke, and then forced to resign shortly thereafter.
Judicial Watch, of course, filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the NEA to get all the details on this scheme to use tax dollars to turn the agency into an Obama propaganda machine. And we recently received some documents that provide an interesting backdrop to this serious scandal.
The documents consist of internal NEA correspondence, including emails involving Sergant and former actor and current Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Kalpen Modi (Harold and Kumar, House, etc). The emails provide new information on the White House’s involvement in the conference call. (The Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs the AmeriCorps program, also was represented during the call.)
The following are excerpts from the email correspondence, which can be read in full here:
- August 10, 2009, 10:23 am: Email from Yosi Sergant to Kalpen Modi: “[The call is] organized by me…I’d ask you to come on and give the exact spiel you gave on Saturday. Walk them through the WH Arts Policy. They won’t know it. Then I will take them into United We Serve and the NEA.”
- August 10, 2009, 10:29 am: Email from Kalpen Modi to Yosi Sergant: “Oy. This would be awesome to be a part of. Let me know if you think it’s going long, or maybe I can get someone from here to do it if I can’t because of the Social Security mtg.”
- August 10, 2009, 11:04 am: Email from Kalpen Modi to Yosi Sergant: “Let me see if we can move Social Sec by a few mins. Agreed, it would be great to be on the call and helpful for us also.”
- August 10, 2009, 1:37 pm: Email from Yosi Sergant to Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement: “We have an important call at 2pm for UWS (United We Serve) and the Arts with my peeps. Indie producers around the country. Kal can’t join the call. Any chance you can hop on for 5 minutes and intro with Nellie and I?”
While the names of the individuals on the conference call were redacted due to “privacy concerns,” some of their titles were disclosed, including: Green Blogger, Publisher, Musician, Music Writer, Film/Marketing, Actress/Director, Marketing, Magazine, Marketing/Magazine, Event Producer, and Actress. These individuals were described by Sergeant in an email as a “rad group, who can “really get stuff done.”
Look, the bottom line here is that the NEA is supposed to foster the arts and not serve as a propaganda machine for the Obama White House. And I find it hard to believe that this scandal started and ended with Yosi Sergant. Our investigation continues as the government has not yet responded in full to our FOIA requests. I’ll have more for you next week.
Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit for Taxpayers to Stop Phoenix Police Chief from Receiving Illegal Pension Benefits
At the risk of running a bit longer than usual this week, there is one more important story to cover. A few weeks ago, I told you that Judicial Watch had challenged Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard to stop the payment of illegal pension benefits to Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris. He declined, and so this week Judicial Watch made good on its promise to take action on behalf of taxpayers and residents of the City of Phoenix, including a number of active and retired members of the Phoenix Police Department. My colleague Paul Orfanedes, JW’s Director of Litigation, flew out to help file the lawsuit on Wednesday against the Phoenix Police Pension Board, its five members and Police Chief Harris.
According to Arizona law, if a retired member of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System “subsequently becomes employed in the same position by the employer from which the member retired, the system shall not make pension payments to the retired member during the period of reemployment.”
The lawsuit alleges Chief Harris retired from the City of Phoenix Police Department “on or about January 19, 2007,” and was subsequently rehired as “Public Safety Manager.” However, Chief Harris continues to head the Phoenix Police Department. He not only uses the title of “Chief of Police,” but he also wears the same uniform and has the same office at Police Headquarters as he did before his “retirement.” Chief Harris is listed as “Public Safety Manager/Police Chief Jack Harris” on the Phoenix Police Department’s organizational chart. Nonetheless, Chief Harris continues to take pension payments, contrary to the requirements of the law.
Police Chief Harris’ alleged double dipping is of deep concern to Arizona taxpayers, who are outraged by this apparent waste of taxpayer funds. And certainly our tax-paying Phoenix law enforcement clients want to protect their pension fund.
This lawsuit made headlines in Phoenix and we have received many inquires from across the country complaining about similar misconduct by public officials. We hit a nerve and I hope this lawsuit can effect change not only in Phoenix but in other parts of the country where public servants abuse the public trust.
Until next week…
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