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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

Pick Your Poison

July 22, 2011

From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

Warren Out as Consumer Czar…Make Way for another Anti-Business Zealot

Pick your poison. That is the effect of Barack Obama’s decision to snub interim Consumer Czar Elizabeth Warren and instead nominate former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), now that the agency is officially up and running. (Judicial Watch’s work certainly contributed to scuttling Warren’s bid to head the agency; more on that in a moment.)

Warren, a leftist radical known particularly for her anti-business views, was an in-your-face Obama appointee, who had virtually no chance of gaining U.S. Senate approval. That’s why Obama had to use a czar “special adviser” appointment to install her into her position of power.

Cordray appears to be no better than Warren, who immediately hired him after Ohio voters threw him out of office last November. The Wall Street Journal described the former Ohio Attorney General in an editorial this week as “Mrs. Warren without the charm,” while noting the fact that Cordray has demonstrated “hostility toward business.”

That might be an understatement. More from the Journal:

[Cordray] sued Ally Financial’s GMAC Mortgage over its foreclosure practices—a lawsuit that helped spawn the national robo-signing uproar, which has mushroomed into an effort to force big banks to cough up billions for Democrats to redistribute. He sued rating agencies for grading mortgage-backed securities as safe investments. He sued Bank of America for purportedly hiding losses and bonuses prior to the Merrill Lynch merger. The list of cases is long.

In an interview with the Journal, Cordray compared employees of a financial services company to the “Nazis at Nuremberg” who said they were just following orders. That’s exactly what we need at the top of the consumer protection agency in the middle of an economic free fall — a radical anti-business zealot with a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric.

But let me tell you something else disturbing about Cordray that the press largely hasn’t covered yet.

Remember Joe Wurzelbacher, better known as “Joe the Plumber”? He is the Ohio citizen who had the audacity to ask then-candidate Barack Obama about his socialist economic policies during the 2008 presidential election. The president famously responded by saying he thought it was a good idea to “spread the wealth around,” a sound bite that backfired against the Obama campaign.

For asking a simple question of a political candidate, Joe was then subjected to retaliation by Obama supporters who were officials of the State of Ohio, when they illegally accessed confidential information from the state’s official databases in an attempt to smear Wurzelbacher’s name.

And what did then-Ohio Attorney General Cordray, the state’s highest law enforcement officer, do about this criminal act? Absolutely nothing. Couldn’t be bothered. But when Judicial Watch sued the state employees on behalf of Joe Wurzelbacher, Cordray sprang into action and came to the defense of the lawbreakers! The State of Ohio’s Office of Inspector General said that the Ohio employees committed a “wrongful act” and misused state resources. Not a problem, according to Cordray.

So what can we learn from this? Richard Cordroy loves to sharpen his claws for big businesses in service to the political Left. But when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of the “little guy,” he couldn’t care less.

Perhaps we should not be surprised by any of this. After all, Warren hired Cordray to work for her at the CFPB. He is her protégé and clearly a chip off of the old block.

As you know if you’ve been reading this column for some time, Judicial Watch has been a long-time critic of Elizabeth Warren and her radicalism. And just a month ago, our investigators caught Warren in an apparent lie when we uncovered documents proving that her agency was very aggressive in a 50-state settlement discussion underway with the nation’s largest mortgage lenders regarding alleged improper foreclosure procedures. (Anti-business zealots in the Obama administration and states’ attorney general offices are trying to extract a $20 billion “settlement” from banks to settle paperwork issues related to foreclosures.)

Warren said during a March 16, 2011, hearing that her agency merely responded to requests for advice regarding these discussions but did not seek to impose its will. Not true. According to the documents we uncovered, Warren held emergency meetings by phone and in person with attorneys general nationwide to contribute unsolicited input on the matter. The documents also show that Warren’s office insisted on keeping its contact with the state attorneys general secret.

Importantly, we did not get those documents from Warren’s agency. We obtained them from the state attorneys’ general offices. The CFPB has stonewalled our FOIA requests and still refuses to turn over documents.

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked Warren about the CFPB’s attempts to block Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests during a committee hearing on July 14, 2011. The hearing was broadcast live on C-SPAN 3 and is partly available on Judicial Watch’s YouTube page.

After quoting from Judicial Watch’s FOIA appeal that the CFPB’s response was “an abuse of disclosure,” Issa held up a completely blacked-out piece of paper received by JW from the CFPB in “response” to our FOIA request. “They received documents that look like this,” Congressman Issa said, noting that the documents were redacted, “so much so that you violated the law.”

Congressman Issa made his point. And now Warren is out.

Let’s hope Richard Cordray receives the thorough vetting Elizabeth Warren never received. And let us also hope that this issue of transparency is seriously addressed by Congress. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this week that before the Senate will even consider the Cordray nomination, the Senate “will insist on serious reforms to bring accountability and transparency to the agency.” (Conservatives and most Republicans want to rein in or abolish the new agency. My concern is that the CFPB effectively gives the federal government control of every financial product under the sun. If you want the Obama administration effectively controlling the issuance of every credit card, car loan, and mortgage loan, this monstrous new agency is for you.)

But talk is cheap. Let’s make sure the Senate holds true to its responsibilities. Contact your U.S. Senators today and let them know you want Cordray subjected to a full investigation. Here’s the number for the U.S. Senate switchboard: 202-224-3121.

Should the Military Help Members of Congress Go to the Detroit Auto Show?

Judicial Watch took the lead in exposing former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) abuse of military aircraft. The massive amount of press coverage resulting from our investigation not only led to a great deal of embarrassment for Pelosi, but it also prompted current House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to announce he would fly commercial between his home district and Washington, DC. Unfortunately, however, according to a new batch of documents we recently uncovered from the United States Air Force, the abuse of military resources continued in 2010, not only by Pelosi, but by other members of Congress as well.

The records, which include flight manifests, expense summaries, copies of receipts and Congressional correspondence, detail a number of trips made by Speaker Pelosi and other Members of Congress in 2010, including:

  • A May 6-10, 2010, Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan and Germany “to discuss issues of mutual interest in Qatar and Afghanistan, as well as conduct oversight on women’s issues (troops) in Afghanistan and to visit with US troops and meet with government officials in Germany.” The total cost of military travel was $204,135.00. The records indicate then-Speaker Pelosi made a personal request that the “maximum per diem allowance be made available at the enhanced rate of an additional $50.”
  • Numerous trips made by Speaker Pelosi between San Francisco and Andrews Air Force Base. Several of these trips included members of Speaker Pelosi’s family, including her husband, daughter, granddaughters and son-in law. For example, one “Staff Summary Sheet” detailing a January 4, 2010, flight from San Francisco to Andrews Air Force Base notes that Pelosi’s daughter, Christina, owes for $99.00 (flight) and $7.82 (meal). The documents suggest the Speaker’s office was billed for the fees but do not indicate whether or not the bills were paid.
  • A January 7-11, 2010, Congressional Delegation to Detroit, Michigan for the expressed purpose of reviewing “the impact of congressional appropriations and policy in promoting innovation, technological development and job creation in US auto industry.” The Detroit trip required $24,336.60 in commercial air travel and an additional $10,046.87 in expenses. The Pentagon paid for military escorts for the trip.
  • One document notes that the mode of transportation for the trip would be “Comair and Milair,” (commercial air travel and military air travel). However, the only cost related to the military portion of the transportation detailed in the records is a $15,000 advance secured for ground transportation, meals and lodging. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) drove himself to Detroit and sought $228 in mileage reimbursement. A total of 25 House members (16 Democrats, 8 Republicans), led by then-Speaker Pelosi and then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), were on the list of trip participants.

Overall, according to documents we uncovered in January 2011, Pelosi used the Air Force aircraft for a total of 43 trips, covering 90,155 miles, from January 1 through October 1, 2010. (These documents provide some additional detail regarding the specific trips.) We continue to pursue other records related to Pelosi’s use of Air Force aircraft through the Freedom of Information Act. (Notwithstanding the Speaker’s announcement, we have also initiated a separate investigation into travel since Republicans took control of the House.)

I haven’t covered the Pelosi travel scandal in quite a while, so let’s take a second to review some of what we uncovered previously regarding the former Speaker’s abuse of Air Force aircraft.

According to previous documents we uncovered, the former Speaker’s military travel cost the United States Air Force $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period — $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol. For example, purchases for one Pelosi-led congressional delegation traveling from Washington, DC, through Tel Aviv, Israel to Baghdad, Iraq May 15-20, 2008, included: Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey’s Irish Crème, Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey, Corona beer and several bottles of wine.

Judicial Watch also previously uncovered internal Department of Defense (DOD) email correspondence detailing attempts by DOD staff to accommodate Pelosi’s numerous requests for military escorts and military aircraft as well as the speaker’s last minute cancellations and changes.

For example, in response to a series of requests for military aircraft, one Defense Department official wrote, “Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi’s team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend?…[T]here’s no need to block every weekend ‘just in case’…” The email also notes that Pelosi’s office had, “a history of canceling many of their past requests.”

We also obtained emails that show the Pentagon worked hand-in-hand with congressional offices prior to releasing documents regarding congressional military travel under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). These “heads up” emails involved FOIA requests filed by Judicial Watch, The Wall Street Journal, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call, among other organizations, related to the use of military aircraft by a number of congressional members, including Pelosi.

All of these documents, including the most recent batch, document Speaker Pelosi’s shameless abuse of military aircraft during her tenure as House Speaker. Certainly her providing sweetheart travel deals for her adult children is an abuse of her high public office. But this scandal goes beyond Speaker Pelosi, as the massive Detroit Auto Show junket shows.

Members of the House are able to obtain permission from the Office of the Speaker for the use of military luxury and military-supported travel for congressional delegation trips. These trips, known as CODELs, have exploded in number and cost. Speaker Boehner needs to reform this abuse of our military’s assets.

For all the recent talk about corporate luxury jets here in Washington, the American people might be surprised to learn the Air Force has an entire wing of luxury jets (in addition to President Obama’s Air Force One planes) for the use of congressmen and top administration officials.

It has to stop. We appreciate that Speaker Boehner is now flying commercial. Nevertheless, Judicial Watch has initiated a separate investigation into congressional travel since Republicans took control of the House.

Judicial Watch Beats Back FBI Effort to Censure Agents

A few weeks ago, I told you that Judicial Watch is investigating a decision by the Obama Justice Department to shield from prosecution a radical terrorist who was involved in financing the terrorist group Hamas. His name is Omar Ahmad and he is one of the co-founders of the radical Council on American Islamic Relations (known as CAIR).

We think it’s important that the American people know why our federal government is protecting terrorists and terrorist-fronts (such as CAIR) here at home, while our men and women in uniform continue to spill their blood fighting terrorists abroad. It makes a mockery of the sacrifice of our military and military families, and represents a nonsensical approach to national security to say the least.

This is a battle we have been fighting for a very long time. Judicial Watch has been heavily involved in exposing the financial networks that make terrorism possible going back almost ten years now. In the days after 9/11, Judicial Watch called on the Bush administration to investigate and, if necessary, shut down terrorist front groups. (We listed them by name.) We also published a special report demonstrating how these terrorist financial networks operate and who operates them.

Perhaps most importantly, we took on the case of two FBI agents — Special Agent Robert Wright and retired Special Agent John Vincent — who were silenced by the FBI when they attempted to expose the government’s mishandling of terrorism investigations in the days before 9/11.

Both Wright and Vincent had worked on a critical investigation, known as Vulgar Betrayal, which uncovered a money laundering scheme in which United States-based members of the Hamas terrorist organization were using nonprofit organizations to recruit and train terrorists and fund terrorist activities. The Vulgar Betrayal investigation ultimately resulted in the FBI’s seizure of $1.4 million in funds which were targeted for terrorist activities — this was a first in U.S. history (and came before 9/11).

But when Wright attempted to publish a manuscript based on his experiences in Vulgar Betrayal, which included an account of the critical and dangerous failings of the FBI, he was censured. (Under an agreement they signed upon joining the FBI, Wright and Vincent were required to seek FBI approval prior to publishing material related to their work.) The FBI also prevented Wright and Vincent from speaking to a New York Times reporter investigating the matter.

At every turn, the FBI stonewalled their efforts, engaging in a series of inexplicable reversals and delays, ignoring its own regulations, and blatantly violating their First Amendment rights. Moreover, after Wright spoke out against the FBI’s behavior in a 2003 press conference, the FBI targeted him for dismissal.

Keep in mind, the FBI subjected these two agents to this type of attack for simply trying to provide a public service and prevent another 9/11!

Judicial Watch pursued justice in this case for nine long years, and in the end justice was served. First, Judicial Watch was successful in helping Special Agent Wright keep his job with the FBI. Then after a nine-year battle, in May 2009, Judicial Watch earned a court victory and ultimately a settlement on behalf of Wright and Vincent.

In her court ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler excoriated the FBI’s censorship and emphasized the public importance of the lawsuit:

This is a sad and discouraging tale about the determined efforts of the FBI to censor various portions of a 500-page manuscript, written by a former long-time FBI agent, severely criticizing the FBI’s conduct of the investigation of a money laundering scheme in which United States-based members of the Hamas terrorist organization were using non-profit organizations in this country to recruit and train terrorists and fund terrorist activities both here and abroad.

The FBI also sought to censor answers given by both Plaintiffs to a series of written questions presented to them by a New York Times reporter concerning Wright’s allegations about the FBI’s alleged mishandling of the investigation. In its efforts to suppress this information, the FBI repeatedly changed its position, presented formalistic objections to release of various portions of the documents in question, admitted finally that much of the material it sought to suppress was in fact in the public domain and had been all along, and now concedes that several of the reasons it originally offered for censorship no longer have any validity.

Judicial Watch is proud to have played a role in helping to beat back the FBI’s illegal effort to censor criticism by its own agents. Wright and Vincent sought to blow the whistle in order to help prevent other terrorist attacks like 9/11. They should have been commended, not attacked.

By the way, I highly suggest you click over to Special Agent Wright’s new website and see for yourself the chronology of his effort to publish his manuscript. And why our continued efforts regarding the likes of Omar Ahmad and CAIR are so critical.

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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