SEPTEMBER 07, 2012
Judicial Watch Scores Victory in Solyndra FOIA Lawsuit
Judicial Watch has been aggressively investigating the Obama administration’s corrupt deal to send $531 million in federal loans to the green energy boondoggle Solyndra, which is now bankrupt. In fact, we are in court right now fighting the Obama administration for the release of documents.
And last Friday we earned a court victory when a federal judge refused to allow the Obama Energy Department to wriggle off the hook. According to Politico:
A federal judge has rejected a bid by the Obama administration to reject part of a lawsuit seeking documents about more than $500 million in federal loans to the failed Solyndra solar panel firm.
In an order issued Friday (August 31), U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras declined to remove the Department of Energy as a defendant in the case brought by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.
The ruling (posted here) turned largely on technicalities relating to the steps one must take before filing a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The Department of Energy attempted to advance the argument that Judicial Watch’s lawsuit was premature because JW had not exhausted all administrative remedies before filing suit. The court was not persuaded, and the case moves forward. This type of gamesmanship only serves to delay the release of documents and further exposes the lie of this administration being the “most transparent in history.”
I can certainly see why the Department of Energy continues to obfuscate and stonewall. From what we know right now about this loan, it is flagrantly corrupt.
For example, we had previously learned that Obama White House officials rushed the Solyndra loan through the approval process to make a media splash at a press event: “The Obama White House tried to rush federal reviewers for a decision on a nearly half-billion-dollar loan to the solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra so Vice President Biden could announce the approval at a September 2009 groundbreaking for the company’s factory,” The Washington Post reported.
We also know that Tulsa billionaire and Obama fundraiser George Kaiser is Solyndra’s top financial backer. (Kaiser reportedly raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.) And we know that Kaiser reportedly discussed the Solyndra deal with White House officials, despite their claims to the contrary.
There is something else potentially very damaging to Obama Energy Department officials: A Solyndra investment advisor noted in an email obtained by The Washington Post that the Obama administration was “pushing hard” to delay the company’s bankruptcy announcement until after the November 2, 2010, mid-term elections. (I’d include the link to the original article, but it is now broken.) Solyndra apparently complied, announcing the layoffs on November 3. Evidence suggests the company feared getting cut off from future government funding.
Sounds like extortion, doesn’t it?
And while the Energy Department attempts to run and hide from Judicial Watch, apparently, Solyndra executives attending the Democratic National Convention are playing a little hide and seek of their own. Per ABC News:
The Obama campaign rolled out the red carpet this week for a former top Energy Department official who was at the center of the ill-fated government loan to Solyndra, a California solar panel firm that wound up in bankruptcy.
Steven J. Spinner joined other top fundraisers for a VIP tour of the Democratic National Convention floor in Charlotte Monday evening, posing and waving for a photographer while standing behind the podium. When he saw ABC News cameras, however, he ran for the exit.
The Solyndra deal was rotten from the beginning, tainted by corruption, political maneuvering, stonewalling, lying and quite possibly extortion. But what else are we to expect when the government gets involved in subsidizing and bailing out corporations? By the way, don’t think that these types of bailouts and subsidies will end if Obama is no longer president. Republicans have their own set of companies and favored interests on which to waste your tax money.
Obama administration officials may want to run and hide from the rule of law, but we continue in hot pursuit in the courts.
JW Files Amicus Curiae Brief with Supreme Court in Support of California Proposition 8 Protecting Marriage
If you’ve been reading this space for any amount of time, you know that the institution of marriage has been under a vicious assault by leftist special interests in California. Not only are they pushing for a radical redefinition of marriage, but these groups are trying to silence the voices of California voters by seeking refuge in the courts.
Regarding the battle of marriage in California, on August 31, 2012, JW filed an amicus curiae brief with the United States Supreme Court in conjunction with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in support of California’s Proposition 8, which states that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
On February 7, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional by a vote of 2-1, while failing to address the larger issue of whether same-sex couples have a federal constitutional right to marry. In short, JW wants the Supreme Court to settle the lawsuit while opponents of Proposition 8 have asked the court not to take the case.
Now ask yourself this: Why would supporters of the court’s redefining marriage want the Supreme Court to pass on the opportunity to issue a ruling in this lawsuit?
As we point out in our amicus brief, opponents of Proposition 8 recognize that Supreme Court precedent is not in their favor and therefore do not want the High Court to settle the issue. However, in our view, the lower court’s decision “raises important issues of constitutional law which should be heard by this Court”:
[A]mici are concerned that the Ninth Circuit has unlawfully limited the right of the people and states to self-governance, and are concerned about the effect of that decision on American democracy. Among the harms caused by the Ninth Circuit’s decision are: a dangerous erosion of the principles of federalism; an anti-democratic limitation on the people’s right to popular initiative and referendum; and a drastic revision of the concept of “rational basis” in Equal Protection analysis. For these and other reasons, amici urge the Court to grant the Petition for a Writ of Certiorari.
With respect to the “rational basis” test, a judicial standard of review used by courts to determine if a legislature had a legitimate interest in enacting a statute, the brief states:
The Ninth Circuit’s sleight-of-hands decision…constitutes a dangerous erosion of the principle of rational basis review, namely that any legitimate interest put forth in support of legislation is sufficient to uphold the law.
As I say, this has been an ongoing battle for years in California. And Judicial Watch has been right in the thick of it from the very beginning.
Here’s a rundown on how we got to the Supreme Court.
In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that same-sex couples had the right to marry, leading to approximately 18,000 same-sex marriages over the next five months. (In an amicus curiae brief we filed in that litigation with the California court, Judicial Watch asked the California Supreme Court to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, stating that “judges are not free to rewrite statutes to say what they would like or what they believe to be better social policy.”)
Rejecting the activism of the judges who redefined marriage, 52% of voters in California, on Election Day 2008, elected to change the California State constitution to state that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The sweeping victory for protecting marriage led to a number of lawsuits challenging the proposition. The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8.
However, on August 4, 2010, District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8 violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. On August 16, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the judgment stayed pending an appeal.
On February 7, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court upheld Judge Walker’s decision, but stayed the ruling preventing additional same-sex marriages from taking place until the appeals process has been exhausted. (The Ninth Circuit Court also refused to invalidate Judge Walker’s ruling on the grounds that he failed to disclose that he had been in a homosexual relationship for ten years prior to registering his ruling on Proposition 8 and therefore had a conflict of interest.)
And now here we are, with forces amassed against the institution of marriage trying to veto the majority of California voters and keep the United States Supreme Court at bay.
But in our view the Supreme Court should not only take up this case, it should also rule that the people of California were acting within their constitutional rights when they sought to protect marriage from being redefined by activist judges.
And it is the people who will have to stand up and protect the institution of marriage, because they cannot depend on gutless politicians to do it for them.
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and current Governor Jerry Brown both refused to defend Proposition 8 in court, prompting proponents of the initiative to seek to intervene as defendants. So Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court for the State of California, supporting the right of California citizens to defend Proposition 8 in court.
Judicial Watch also filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Obama Justice Department to find out why the nation’s top law enforcement agency reversed course and decided to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court.
So with a complete absence of leadership and abuse of public office by politicians on this important issue in Washington and in California, it is up to us – citizens and citizen groups like Judicial Watch and the Allied Educational Foundation – to protect the institution of marriage.
JW’s Battle against Maryland’s Gerrymandered Congressional District Map Continues
I recently told you about a major victory in the State of Maryland, where Judicial Watch and our client MDPetitions.com won a court battle to place Democrat Governor Martin O’Malley’s gerrymandered congressional redistricting plan on the 2012 ballot. Well, unfortunately this battle is not yet over.
Evidently, Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough, who was appointed by Governor O’Malley, has unlawfully submitted unclear ballot language that would make it virtually impossible for voters to make an informed decision on the question. So now we’re back in court over the matter.
Last week we filed a complaint on behalf of MDPetitions.com against Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough and the State Board of Elections challenging the language of a ballot question for the upcoming referendum. The lawsuit alleges that the language certified by Secretary of State McDonough to appear on the ballot does not “present the purpose of the enactment concisely and intelligently,” and is therefore in violation of the law.
Judicial Watch and MDPetitions.com successfully defended the placement of the Congressional Districting Plan on the 2012 ballot when Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, denied an attempt by the state Democratic Party to stop the referendum. The court issued its per curiam order on August 17, 2012.
As Judicial Watch notes in the MDPetions.com complaint, filed on August 30, 2012, in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, the Secretary of State certified ballot language that is legally insufficient.
[T]he language of the ballot question prepared and certified by the Secretary is a mere twenty-three words and omits any reference to the fact that Senate Bill 1 makes material changes to existing congressional districts or that it was enacted as an emergency measure and consequently had immediate effect, among other substantial omissions.
Judicial Watch and MDPetitions.com further described the significant ramifications of the Congressional Districting Plan: “Senate Bill 1 removed approximately 1.6 million Marylanders from their previous congressional district and, placed them in a different district.” This represents approximately 27% of the population.
Now let’s talk about what the Secretary of State is required to do by law when it comes to crafting ballot language. If the text of an enactment that is subject to referendum exceeds 200 words, the Secretary must prepare and certify ballot language in such forms as to “present the purpose of the enactment concisely and intelligently.”
Now here’s the straight language from the “purpose paragraph” describing Senate Bill 1, the congressional redistricting plan:
AN ACT concerning the Congressional Districting Plan FOR the purpose of establishing the composition of the eight districts in the State of Maryland for election of members to the United States of Representatives; specifying certain ward, election district, and precinct boundaries; making this Act an emergency measure; and generally relating to the reconfiguration of congressional districts in the state.
And here’s the ballot language for the statute as certified by Secretary McDonough:
Establishes the boundaries for the State’s eight United States Congressional Districts based on recent census figures, as required by the United States Constitution.
Do you think there is any chance a voter could get a true sense of what is at stake in this ballot question from this language? Not a chance.
MDPetitions.com Chairman Delegate Neil Parrott attempted to revise the language. However, Delegate Parrott was told by a representative of the State Board of Elections that the language had been certified by the Secretary of State on August 20, 2012, and could not be changed. Our lawsuit therefore asks the court to prevent the state from printing the ballots with the erroneous language and to revise the ballot language in accordance with the law.
Delegate Parrott issued the following statement about MDPetitions.com’s new lawsuit.
Marylanders worked hard to make sure that the congressional redistricting map could be voted on in this next election. Unfortunately, the proposed ballot language is vague and insufficient and doesn’t even refer to a specific map. The congressional map divides Maryland’s communities and dilutes the minority vote. I am convinced that if Maryland voters have the right information, the map will be voted down. My hope is that the court requires ballot language that gives voters a clear understanding of what is at stake.
First, Maryland politicians tried to prevent voters from having their voices heard on Maryland’s gerrymandered congressional map. And the courts stopped them. Now, key Maryland politicians are trying to present ballot language that will leave voters confused. We hope the courts stop them again.
By way of review, on October 20, 2011, Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) signed the new Congressional Districting Plan into law, drawing heavy criticism and an unsuccessful legal challenge from both political parties. Critics maintain the new congressional map is specifically designed to enhance the power of certain incumbents while minimizing the voting power of minorities, rural voters and Republicans.
As noted by a Washington Post editorial: “The map, drafted under Mr. O’Malley’s watchful eye, mocks the idea that voting districts should be compact or easily navigable. The eight districts respect neither jurisdictional boundaries nor communities of interest. To protect incumbents and for partisan advantage, the map has been sliced, diced, shuffled and shattered, making districts resemble studies in cubism.”
Our lawyers rushed to court this week but, unfortunately, the lower court ruled in favor of the government.. We are now rushing to file briefs with the Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which should rule on the MDPetitions.com challenge by Tuesday.
MDPetitions.com launched a successful petition drive to put the gerrymandered Congressional Districting Plan to a referendum November 2012. We successfully defended the petition drive in court. Now let’s hope voters have a fair opportunity to vote on this new plan on Election Day.
Until next week…
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