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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Because no one
is above the law!


Tom Fitton's Judicial Watch Weekly Update

Is Obama Above the Law?

February 25, 2011

From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

Is the President Above the Law?

This is the uncomfortable question many Americans are asking after President Obama’s lawless decision to stop defending in federal court the law of the land on the institution of marriage.

According to The Washington Post:

The Obama administration said Wednesday that it will no longer defend the federal law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriage because it considers the legislation unconstitutional, a sudden and rare reversal.

Gay rights groups hailed the administration’s move, saying it will bolster their argument that laws that apply a different standard to people based on sexual orientation are unconstitutional. At least three challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act are working their way through the federal courts.

The law in question is the Defense of Marriage Act, which breezed through Congress with a vote of 85–14 in the Senate and a vote of 342–67 in the House before being signed into law by President Clinton on September 21, 1996. It has been the law of the land now for almost 15 years, but, perhaps, not anymore. President Obama and his pliant henchman Attorney General Eric Holder thought it was more important to throw a bone to their leftist supporters than to enforce the laws of the land—again. (Sure enough, the Post story linked above details how Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s White House liaison to the homosexual lobby, was involved in this decision!) In fact, the administration has already defended this law’s constitutionality in court and is now changing its position mid-stream. You can view Holder’s dishonest letter announcing the executive override of federal law here.

Obama’s decision is highly irregular and raises serious questions as to whether President Obama and Holder are upholding their oaths and following the Constitution’s demand to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Has the president now substituted himself for both the Congress and Supreme Court? Is this the end result of his dubious czar appointments: that he has, in effect, appointed himself “Constitution Czar?” In one move, Obama would override the Constitution and redefine marriage! In Clintonian fashion, Obama will continue to enforce a law he thinks (and is now telling federal courts throughout the land) has no constitutional basis.

The implications of President Obama’s abuse of office are still rippling and unknown. Does it mean that gay marriage will now be recognized in all the states (despite the 30 state constitutions that ban it)? What about the tax code and other federal regulations related to marital status, which under DOMA, cannot be extended to same-sex “marriages?” The homosexual lobby says that there are 1,138 of them. Has Obama’s dictate changed all that law, including the tax code? Though, supposedly, Congress (or, at least, the House) may step in to defend the law, I would worry about a federal judge or two summarily ruling that “gay marriage” is the law of the land rather quickly.

Now let’s talk about the disgrace that is Attorney General Eric Holder. From day one, Judicial Watch vigorously opposed the Holder nomination due to his corrupt record in the Clinton administration as a Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno. I knew Holder would be a disaster as Attorney General. But even I could not have predicted just how bad the situation would get on his watch. Just take a moment to review Holder’s record so far:

  • Judicial Watch uncovered explosive evidence that top political appointees at Holder’s Justice Department were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a “civil rights” group that brandished weapons, blocked a polling station and hurled racial insults at voters on Election Day 2008. These documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision.

    During the course of a year-long investigation of the Black Panther scandal, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights made startling accusations of racism at Holder’s Justice Department, a charge corroborated by Justice Attorney Christopher Coates. (Read more here.)

  • While failing to protect the country from the scourge of rampant illegal immigration, the Holder Justice Department made matters worse by suing the State of Arizona for implementing a new get-tough illegal immigration law, S.B. 1070. Judicial Watch represents Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of S.B. 1070, and the entire Arizona Legislature against this shameless legal assault by Holder’s Justice Department.
  • Judicial Watch recently received documents from the Department of Justice that show Holder’s DOJ worked hand-in-hand with the radical leftist ACLU in mounting their respective legal challenges to SB 1070. (In one email exchange uncovered by Judicial Watch, a Justice Department official expressed joy at “being on the same side” with the ACLU.) The Justice Department is supposed to be an independent law enforcement agency, not a mouthpiece for the radical left.
  • Just one week after suing Arizona, Holder’s Justice Department announced it would not prosecute sanctuary cities who flout federal immigration laws.
  • To this day, Eric Holder refuses to initiate any investigation of the corrupt enterprise known as ACORN, despite the organization’s long, sordid history of election fraud. In fact, while noting that ACORN had engaged in “questionable hiring and training practices,” Holder’s Justice Department actually closed down one ACORN investigation in March 2009, claiming ACORN broke no laws. Meanwhile, the organization, now splintered into corrupt cells across the country, continues to violate the law. Holder’s unwillingness to prosecute ACORN calls into question his impartiality, considering the fact that President Obama previously worked with the organization.
  • Holder’s record on national security is abysmal. Not only is Holder leading the Obama administration’s ridiculous on-again, off-again campaign to close Guantanamo Bay, but it was Attorney General Holder who made the disastrous initial decision to grant a civilian criminal trial to 9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and other 9/11 terrorists in New York City. That decision prompted a massive public backlash and the plan was scrapped, at least temporarily. As CNN pointed out just last week, Holder has still not told the American people of his final plan to hold 9/11 terrorists and how they will be brought to justice. I suspect, however, it will not be the justice they deserve. According to press reports, at least seven attorneys inside Holder’s Justice Department previously represented terrorist suspects in court. (They are known as the Al Qaida 7. And Holder and his law firm also advocated for terrorists before his appointment to lead Justice.)

And if all of this isn’t enough evidence of Holder’s corruption, political hackery and incompetence, Fox News has its own expanded list of Holder’s greatest hits. This week’s latest assault on the rule of law lends further support to Judicial Watch’s effort to “Dump Holder.” America needs an Attorney General who will defend the constitutional order and not be a political, personal lawyer for a president who seems to know no constitutional restraints on his power.

Wisconsin Debate Puts Focus on Waste, Fraud and Abuse

On Thursday, February 17, Democratic lawmakers in the Wisconsin Senate fled the state to avoid voting on a proposal by Governor Scott Walker to close the $3.6 billion budget deficit by asking government workers to contribute to their pensions and pay a little more of their healthcare premiums. Governor Walker also intends to levy restrictions on their collective bargaining rights, except on salaries, so the state can save scarce taxpayer funds. “Collective bargaining” is the coercive method that public employee unions use to extract extravagant taxpayer-funded benefits from local and state politicians. No less a liberal than FDR opposed collective bargaining for public employee unions.

And what was the reaction? Democratic Senators simply walked out. And it took a little while to find them, hiding out in a resort in neighboring Illinois. (By the way, Michelle Malkin has coined a new term for these cowardly legislators: “fleebaggers.”)

Meanwhile, union bosses, with help from the Obama White House and the Democratic National Committee, stirred the pot by staging protests. According to Politico, “Organizing for America, Obama’s 2008 grass-roots campaign organization posted a statement on its website late Thursday, announcing it ‘is mobilizing on the ground in Wisconsin to defend the rights of public employees from an attempt by the governor to take away their right to organize.’” This president and his leftist “organizing” allies have a remarkable disdain for republican, constitutional government and the rule of law.

President Obama himself inflamed the debate by incorrectly labeling Governor Walker’s plan as an “assault on unions.”

Now, the brush fire that started in Wisconsin is raging across the country as state governments continue to address their own bloated budgets receiving stiff opposition from powerful union bosses and their leftist political allies. According to CNN:

Legislatures from New Jersey to California are struggling to tackle yawning deficits, longstanding pension obligations and health benefits and some broader questions about how unionized labor will fit into America’s evolving political landscape.

The proposed budget bills of state deficit hawks, whom their critics label union-busters, spawned a second week of demonstrations in at least three states over what protesters view as an attack on workers’ rights.

“Governors all across the United States are talking about cutting billions of dollars,” said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who defended his budget-repair bill that addresses a $137 million shortfall and increases contributions of public workers to their pensions and health insurance benefits.

Of course the spin from the left is that this is a war between conservatives and the working man. But nothing could be further from the truth. This is about rooting out waste and mismanagement in government and protecting taxpayer dollars. The specifics of any legislation aside, the week’s debate is about reining in taxpayer employee unions who organize not against corporations but against taxpayers. And this is also about stopping rampant public pension abuse, which takes place not only in Wisconsin but across the country.

Did you know, for example, that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (a Republican, it should be noted) continues to collect a $50,000 pension even though he came out of retirement and banks an annual salary of $130,000? How can he legally do this? Because during a previous term as governor, Branstad presciently signed into law a provision in 1992 that exempts retirees who return as elected officials from pension cuts.

Are we to believe that efforts to curb this sort of nonsense are an affront to the working man? Certainly not! But they are a real and distinct threat to union bosses (the most powerful of which are the public-sector unions) and the liberal political operatives who benefit from their increasing campaign donations.

And that is why you see President Obama, his campaign operation, the DNC, liberal lawmakers and union bosses working together to pull all of the strings with these protests. (This stands, by the way, in stark contrast to the Tea Party protests which organically emanated from the bottom up in response to President Obama’s socialist agenda.)

As many of you know, Judicial Watch is active in several other states, targeting the abuse and out of control spending of taxpayer funds such as are at issue in Wisconsin.

For example, we’ve taken legal action to stop a scheme by Los Angeles County that pays superior court judges in the county approximately $21 million annually in improper perks and supplemental benefits on top of what they already receive from the state. In that case, the judges actually hired a lobbyist to get the California state legislature to change the law after our taxpayer clients beat them in court! So it isn’t just the teachers unions that are out of control, taxpayer-paid judges can treat taxpayers like an ATM, too!

And we also filed a taxpayer lawsuit against the Phoenix Police Pension Board and Phoenix Chief of Police Jack F. Harris to stop the illegal payment of pension benefits to Chief Harris valued at approximately $90,000 per year. (He retired as chief and then came back as chief. So he wants to keep his full-time pay and pension for the same job!)

These are just two examples. Just imagine what takes place in state and local governments across the country. It’s refreshing to see state lawmakers say enough is enough!

Governor Walker has decided to take action to eradicate waste, mismanagement and corruption inside the Wisconsin state government. And his efforts have apparently inspired other governors to do the same. This is a good thing for the working man, and the country.

JW Obtains Never-Before-Released Bailout Documents from FDIC

It took two years, a lawsuit and a ruling from a federal judge, but Judicial Watch finally got hold of a batch of documents from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) related to the Citigroup and Bank of America bailouts. (The FOIA lawsuit, you may recall, was filed on behalf of former Federal Reserve and FDIC employee Vern McKinley.)

Specifically, we received the unredacted minutes from FDIC Board meetings during which FDIC officials and staff discussed the rationale for the bailouts which centered on the “systemic risk” of allowing the two financial institutions to fail.

We also received never-before-seen documents regarding the FDIC’s Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, which guaranteed unsecured debt of private financial institutions and provided them “full coverage of non-interest bearing [sic] deposit transaction accounts, regardless of dollar amount.”

Here are the highlights:

  • FDIC Board Meeting Minutes from approval of Citigroup bailout (November 23, 2008):

    According to the minutes from the meeting, government officials described in vague terms the consequences of allowing Citigroup to fail, including “the effects on money market liquidity could be expected on a global basis,” “term funding markets remain under considerable stress” and the fact that it would “significantly undermine business and household confidence.” One FDIC Board member who was in attendance, John Reich, cautioned Federal bank regulators and the Treasury Department to “avoid ‘selective creativity’ in determining what constitutes systemic risk and what does not and what is possible for the government to do and what is not.”

  • FDIC Board Meeting Minutes from approval of Bank of America bailout (January 15, 2009):

    According to the meeting minutes, Sheila Bair, Chairman of the Board of the FDIC, admitted the agency “was relying on data analysis by the Federal Reserve” and for that reason the FDIC “very much needs to proceed with a systemic risk determination with respect to [Bank of America].” Chairman Bair characterized the decision to bail out Bank of America as demonstrating that the FDIC, an independent agency, was a “team player along with the Federal Reserve and the Treasury to prove the systemic risk case.” (Translation: Treasury and the Fed really want this so we have no choice but to go along.)

Incidentally, these meeting minutes are consistent with a separate report by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program released on January 13, 2011. According to the report, Chairman Bair admitted: “We were told by the New York Fed that problems would occur in the global markets if Citi were to fail. We didn’t have our own information to verify this statement, so I didn’t want to dispute that with them.”

Regarding the consequences of allowing Bank of America to fail, the arguments noted in the meeting minutes were similar to those articulated during the Citigroup meeting and included the general observation that “both financial stability and overall economic conditions would be adversely affected, and that staff believes the consequences could extend to the broader economy.”

You read that right. The FDIC authorized the radical expansion of its powers because the fall-out from the failure of Citigroup and Bank of America “could” extend to the rest of the economy. How’s that for definitive?

Now, in addition to documents specifically referencing the Citigroup and Bank of America deals, we also got hold of the meeting minutes and a FDIC memo regarding the agency’s Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program. This is the programmatic umbrella under which these bailouts were made. And it represented a radical expansion of the FDIC’s power, allowing the agency to go well beyond the narrow scope of its lending authority.

To justify this expansion of power, both documents reference a “recent study” by the FDIC on the effect of a run on uninsured deposits and its impact on economic activity. However, to date, this report has not been released to the American people, despite the fact that it is within the parameters of Mr. McKinley’s FOIA request. This program, by the way, continues to insure about $265 billion dollars in debt.

Now let’s backtrack a bit so I can show you how we managed to force the release of these documents.

On March 15, 2010, we filed a FIOA lawsuit on behalf of Mr. McKinley as part of our comprehensive investigation to determine under what lawful rationales the federal government initiated these financial bailouts. We were seeking records related to the FDIC’s decision to guarantee $306 billion of loans and securities held by Citigroup Inc., and $118 billion held by Bank of America. On April 15, 2010, the FDIC provided 101 pages of heavily redacted documents without providing sufficient justification for withholding the information. The agency then concluded this satisfied their legal requirement and filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

But not so fast. On December 23, 2010, while noting the fact that the FDIC “has not fulfilled its obligations under FOIA,” a federal judge rejected the FDIC’s motion to dismiss and ordered the agency to either conduct another search for documents or demonstrate why these documents should be withheld. (Click here for a more complete accounting of the judge’s ruling. It was quite extraordinary…and obviously very effective.)

So here are my three takeaways from these documents: The government’s justification for the bailouts was weak. The decision was rushed. And it appears that the “independent” FDIC, while conducting no analysis of its own, merely bowed to pressure from politicos at Treasury to accept the bailout scheme. All of this, I remind you, happened during the Bush administration. You can see how the Obama administration had an awful framework to push through their socialist takeover of additional industries—cars, student loans, home mortgages, and healthcare.

No wonder it took two years and a lawsuit for Judicial Watch to force the Obama administration to release these documents. They confirm the concerns of the majority of Americans who believe the financial bailouts were unjustified and corrupt expansions of government power.

Until next week…

Tom Fitton

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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