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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

Why is Nancy Pelosi Protecting Charlie Rangel?

September 4, 2009

From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

Did Rangel Bribe House Ethics Committee Members?

Rep. Charles Rangel, under investigation for a series of serious transgressions by the House Ethics Committee, has apparently resorted to making “campaign contributions” to make the problems go away.

Here’s the story according to WCBS TV, a New York CBS affiliate:

CBS 2 HD has learned of more alleged back-door dealings and political power peddling by Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel. The reigning member of Congress’ top tax committee is apparently “wrangling” other politicos to get him out of his own financial and tax troubles.

…Since ethics probes began last year the 79-year-old congressman has given campaign donations to 119 members of Congress, including three of the five Democrats on the House Ethics Committee who are charged with investigating him.

The recipients of Rangel’s “generosity,” dubbed “Charlie’s Angels” by the press, include Congressmen Ben Chandler (D-KY), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Peter Welch (D–VT). Welch has since returned the contributions, totaling approximately $20,000. No such action yet from the other two recipients.

Now, it’s not exactly a secret that the House Ethics Committee has become a bad joke when it comes to investigating and holding accountable Members of Congress. This is one of the reasons Judicial Watch was so active during the debate over how to reform the House ethics process. (You can read my congressional testimony before the “Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement” by clicking here.)

The Committee is really going to have to work hard this time to find a way to ignore Rangel’s corrupt activities.

Rangel, the man in charge of writing tax policy for the entire country, mind you, has yet to adequately explain how he could possibly “forget” to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income he earned from his off-shore rental property. He also faces allegations that he improperly used his influence: to keep hold of highly coveted rent-controlled apartments in Harlem; misusing his congressional office to fundraise for his private Rangel Center; and to preserve a tax loophole for an oil drilling company in exchange for funding for the Rangel Center as well.

And just last week, Rangel amended his financial disclosure reports in a way that served to double his reported wealth. CQ Politics reports:

Among the new items on Rangel’s amended 2007 financial disclosure report were an account at the Congressional Federal Credit Union worth at least $250,000, an investment account with at least $250,000, land in southern New Jersey and stock in PepsiCo and fast food conglomerate Yum! Brands. None of those investments appeared on the original report, which was filled out by hand and filed in May 2008.

According to the original report, Rangel’s net worth was between $516,015 and $1,316,000, while the amended report showed his net worth, as of Dec. 31, 2007, roughly double that amount — at least $1,028,024 and as much as $2,495,000.

Can you imagine forgetting as much as $1 million dollars in assets!? No wonder Rangel felt the need to protect himself by disbursing campaign contributions to the Ethics Committee members and throughout Congress.

Why is Charlie Rangel still in Congress, let alone still the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee? Nancy Pelosi doesn’t need the interminable (and compromised) ethics investigation to remove Rangel from the chairmanship. Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership need to be held accountable for Rangel’s ongoing misconduct.

Judicial Watch Pushes New Legal Challenge to LAPD Illegal Alien Sanctuary Policy “Special Order 40”

A few weeks ago, I reported to you that Judicial Watch petitioned the California Supreme Court to review its taxpayer lawsuit against the LAPD’s “Special Order 40,” an illegal alien sanctuary policy. Well, at the same time, Judicial Watch is also pushing a completely separate legal challenge to this policy through the California courts.

This particular lawsuit, filed on behalf of California taxpayer Rudy Moreno, focuses on a California statute related to the communication between the LAPD and federal immigration officials when an individual is arrested for various narcotics offenses. (You may recall Judicial Watch recently earned a huge victory in a lawsuit filed against the City of San Francisco Police Department seeking enforcement of the same law.) The lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Moreno is now before the California Court of Appeals. On August 28, we filed our opening brief.

So let’s take a look at the relevant statute in the lawsuit, California Health and Safety Code Section 11369. It states:

Where there is reason to believe that any person arrested for [various narcotics offenses] may not be a citizen of the United States, the arresting agency shall notify the appropriate agency of the United States having charge of deportation matters.

This appears to be a very simple and very clear language. But check out the convoluted way the LAPD has chosen to interpret the statute.

When someone is arrested for a narcotics offense, and the LAPD determines that person was born outside of the United States, an “X” is marked in the “birthplace field” of the booking form. This information is then uploaded to the LAPD’s database and electronically transferred to a computer system used by Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department (LASD) has modified this computer system to automatically notify the LASD and a division of the Department of Homeland Security located in Vermont when someone born outside of the United States is arrested on a narcotics offense.

A key question for the appellate court is whether this complicated, confusing, and incomplete process is consistent with the law. The trial court said yes. We say not even close.

The LAPD’s attitude seems to be: “Even though we don’t do it correctly, the end result is the same.” That’s simply not good enough.

The California legislature put a specific requirement in place for the LAPD to follow. It requires that the arresting agency directly report information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if there is reason to believe an individual arrested on various narcotics offenses may not be a citizen of the United States. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is not the arresting agency. It is the jailor.

The California legislature could have required jailors across the state to report directly to immigration officials, but it did not. Legislators specified “arresting agency.” And there is a very good reason for this. The arresting agency is likely to have more information related to the citizenship status of arrestees than the jailor.

And simply marking an “X” on a form indicating the fact that the arrestee was born outside of the United States says little about their immigration status. As we note in our brief, “millions of U.S. citizens were born outside of the United States,” including the governor of the State of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger! And there are countless examples of individuals born in the United States who are not U.S. citizens, such as the children of diplomats.

Here’s how we conclude our brief, which you can read in full here: “Of all the persons arrested in the State of California, the Legislature has mandated that arresting agencies highlight for federal deportation authorities those persons arrested for narcotics violations where there is reason to believe the arrestees may not be U.S. citizens. Identifying all arrestees who happen to be foreign born simply does not highlight those arrestees who may not be U.S. citizens. Consequently, the LAPD does not comply with this statute.”

More to come…

JW Calls on Arizona AG to File a Lawsuit to Stop Phoenix Police Chief from Receiving Illegal Pension Benefits

Judicial Watch’s focus on combating corruption is not just limited to the leviathan government here in Washington, DC. There’s plenty of public corruption in various states and localities that we try to address.

That’s why, on August 27, Judicial Watch sent a letter requesting that Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard file a lawsuit against the Phoenix Police Pension Board, its five members, and City of Phoenix Chief of Police Jack F. Harris. Our goal is to stop Chief Harris from continuing to collect illegal pension payments. In our letter I informed Attorney General Goddard that if he fails to act on this request, Judicial Watch will file a lawsuit on behalf of Arizona taxpayers and former and current City of Phoenix police officers to obtain justice in the matter.

This is a classic case of “double dipping.” Here are the basic facts:

Chief Harris retired from the City of Phoenix Police Department “on or about January 19, 2007,” but was subsequently rehired as “Public Safety Manager.” However, Chief Harris continued to maintain his former title and position as Chief of Police. In fact, Chief Harris is listed as “Public Safety Manager/Police Chief Jack Harris” on an organizational chart maintained by the Phoenix Police Department.

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.” As Chief Harris continues to take pension payments in violation of the law, Judicial Watch has asked Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard to intervene.

As I wrote in my letter, I believe the Attorney General has “clear legal authority to seek to enjoin the payment of pension benefits to Chief Harris.”

There is no question that the illegal payment of pension funds to Chief Harris is a waste of taxpayer funds. And there is also no question that Attorney General Goddard should put a stop to it. We expect all public officials to follow the rules and we expect Arizona’s top law enforcement officer to do his job and enforce the law. However, if the Attorney General fails to remedy the situation, we stand ready to act.

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.