From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
FEC Lets Pelosi Off the Hook
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) recently gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) a free pass when it dismissed a Judicial Watch complaint related to an "electioneering advertisement" featuring the speaker during the 2008 election season. The advertisement was part of what is known as the "We Campaign" funded by Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has dismissed a complaint against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for appearing in an environment-related ad during the 2008 election season with former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican.
In May 2008, the Judicial Watch organization sent a letter to the FEC arguing that Pelosi’s appearance in a TV commercial produced by Alliance for Climate Protection constituted a violation of campaign finance laws.
The letter sparked a FEC investigation to determine if the ad could be considered a form of electioneering, which would make the money paid by the nonprofit group a prohibited "soft money" donation.
Of course this ad campaign was a form of electioneering!
During the advertisement, Nancy Pelosi identifies herself as a "lifelong Democrat" and then goes on to advocate a political position – the need to curb global climate change. "We need cleaner forms of energy, and we need them fast," she states during the commercial. How is that different from any other campaign commercial? (You can read a transcript of the advertisement for yourself by clicking here.)
The FEC lamely argued that the focus of the ad message was on the policy issue rather than the speaker’s candidacy. Not only is this specious reasoning, it doesn’t even square with official FEC policy, which states: "When an individual or political committee pays for a communication that is coordinated with a candidate or party committee, the communication is considered an in-kind contribution to that candidate or party committee and is subject to the limits, prohibitions and reporting requirements of the federal campaign finance law."
Do you see any reference to the "content" of the communication in this policy?
As we mentioned in our complaint, a press release about the "We Campaign" indicated that the Pelosi advertisement was scheduled to "run nationally on network and cable channels" – which presumably would have included Pelosi’s San Francisco, California, district. One press report indicated the ad had run at least 300 times on Fox News and CNN after its launch on April 18, 2008. All of this took place within 90 days of Pelosi’s June 3, 2008, primary.
In our view, this advertisement clearly represented an "in-kind" contribution to the Pelosi campaign and should have been reported as such. Moreover, because the Alliance for Climate Protection is a nonprofit corporation, it also violated the ban on corporate contributions. And the cost of the campaign no doubt exceeded the limit of $2,300 for individual contributions to candidates for public office, also a violation of campaign finance policy.
The legal staff of the FEC recommended a finding against Pelosi. But the political appointee commissioners that run the FEC essentially said that even though there may have been an offense, they were going to choose to ignore the violation of law by the Speaker of the House of Representatives as part of their "prosecutorial discretion."
This is another sorry example of the way Washington works. But our lawyers are examining our legal options, which include a challenge to the FEC’s dereliction in federal court.
Dodd Amends Financial Disclosure Form in Response to Judicial Watch Complaint
Judicial Watch was right. And Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) just became a whole lot richer, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to his most recent Senate Financial Disclosure Form. Here’s the scoop from The Hartford Courant:
A new appraisal of the Irish cottage owned by Sen. Christopher Dodd concludes that it is worth about three times as much as Dodd has been reporting on his financial disclosure forms.
The new value of the cottage, located on Inishnee in Galway County, is $658,000, according to Dodd’s 2008 financial disclosure form released today.
The appraisal was done by the same person who did the original one in 2002 when the 1,200 square-foot cottage was evaluated at about $190,000.
And to what do we attribute this massive increase in Dodd’s property value? Is the Ireland real estate market experiencing an unprecedented boom?
Not entirely. Dodd amended his disclosure forms to reflect the "true" value of his property after Judicial Watch filed a Senate ethics complaint against him on April 24th. We had specifically alleged that Dodd was undervaluing this property on his Senate financial disclosure forms.
But, as you may recall, the price of the property and Dodd’s false Senate financial disclosure forms are only part of the story here.
According to our complaint, which can be read in its entirety here:
This complaint concerns recent media reports alleging Senator Christopher Dodd used his position and influence as a United States Senator to intervene on behalf of his longtime friend and business associate, Edward Downe, Jr. Senator Dodd is then alleged to have benefited financially as a result of his intervention, and failed to disclose the financial benefits by filing inaccurate Senate Financial Disclosure Statements from 2002 through at least 2007.
The long and the short of it is this: Dodd helped a friend and associate (Edward Downe) obtain a reduced sentence, and ultimately a full presidential pardon from former President Clinton, for tax and securities crimes. It looks as if Dodd then received gifts in exchange, including a sweetheart deal on this Ireland property from an associate of Downe’s (William Kessinger).
So why did Dodd all of the sudden change the value of the property after inaccurately reporting the value for years? Here’s Dodd’s answer: "The value of the cottage – or of Irish real estate, generally – isn’t something that the Dodds have thought much about. However, questions have been raised and they recognize that it’s important to make a good faith effort at valuation for the Senate Financial Disclosures," spokesman Bryan DeAngelis said.
Now here’s the truth: Dodd failed to accurately report the value of the property to cover-up the magnitude of the quid pro quo gift he received from Downe and Kessinger. And he amended the disclosure forms because Judicial Watch nailed him on it.
Obama Denies Access to White House Visitor Logs
President Obama boldly declared a new era of government transparency on his first official day in office. Specifically, the president said: "My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government." Since that time, however, President Obama has repeatedly violated this pledge.
Here’s yet another example according to MSNBC.com:
The Obama administration is fighting to block access to names of visitors to the White House, taking up the Bush administration argument that a president doesn’t have to reveal who comes calling to influence policy decisions.
Despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to introduce a new era of transparency to Washington, and despite two rulings by a federal judge that the records are public, the Secret Service has denied msnbc.com’s request for the names of all White House visitors from Jan. 20 to the present.
Now, you may recall that Judicial Watch has some experience with these White House visitor logs and the bogus argument that such records should be withheld from public scrutiny. As noted by MSNBC:
The visitor logs have been released in only a few isolated cases, most notably records of visits by lobbyist Jack Abramoff to the Bush White House, and in the "filegate" investigation of the Clinton White House.
Both of these "isolated cases" have one thing in common (not noted in MSNBC’s report): Judicial Watch. We successfully obtained the White House logs through the Freedom of Information Act detailing Abramoff’s visits to the White House, despite the Bush administration’s attempts to keep them secret. We then released them to the public. (Click here to check out the logs for yourself.)
The Obama administration has adopted the Bush administration’s novel legal view that White House visitor records are not Secret Service documents, which would be subject to FOIA, but rather presidential records that may be kept secret. These arguments were rejected twice by the federal court.
In response to public outrage over the Obama administration’s position on the visitor logs, apparently the policy is now "under review." Let’s hope the Obama administration realizes the importance of keeping these records public and the futility of advancing their campaign against transparency through the courts.
Judicial Watch Releases Special Report on Judge Sotomayor and the PRLDEF
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve provided you with some details regarding Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor and her connection to the leftist Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). If you want the full story, Judicial Watch released a special report on the topic just this week. You can click here to download your free copy and get the word out.
Given the amount of attention I’ve given to Judge Sotomayor and the PRLDEF in this space over the last couple of weeks, I won’t go into any more details now. (I do suggest you read the report.) Suffice to say, however, Judge Sotomayor’s 12-year leadership position with the PRLDEF indicates a commitment to advancing a liberal, race-conscious agenda through the court system. And for this Judge Sotomayor owes an explanation to the American people. Let’s hope she provides one during her upcoming Senate confirmation hearings (scheduled to begin on July 13th).
Until next week…
Tom Fitton President
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