From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Blagojevich Scandal is Obama’s Scandal
A massive scandal involving Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama exploded this week after the Illinois Democratic governor was arrested, handcuffed and hauled off to jail for allegedly trying to "sell" the now vacant U.S. Senate seat once occupied by the President-elect, among numerous other corruption charges. The criminal complaint indicates that Obama and his team knew about Blagojevich’s efforts to sell Obama’s Senate seat. Not only was Team Obama aware of Blagojevich’s scheme but they seemingly participated in illegal negotiations with Blagojevich and his representatives.
There has been an air of lawlessness around Governor Blagojevich for some time, and Judicial Watch applauds U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald for his actions.
The key evidence in the broad corruption investigation (called Operation Board Games) is 45 days of secretly taped conversations during which Blagojevich brazenly (and profanely) described his various efforts to sell favors in exchange for campaign contributions.
According to The Chicago Tribune: "The governor and his chief of staff, John Harris, were simultaneously charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and solicitation to commit bribery as part of what officials say was a wide-ranging scheme to shakedown campaign donors and politicians for high-paying posts and millions of dollars in campaign contributions."
(In more bad news for Obama, his friend, fundraiser, and real estate partner Antoin "Tony" Rezko’s name is further implicated in the corrupt activities, as his name is all over the criminal complaint.)
Blagojevich corruption is no surprise. Judicial Watch has been all over the Illinois governor’s case for years because of the very issues that led to his arrest. But the breadth and depravity of Blagojevich’s behavior is shocking. I don’t have the space to detail all of the incidents and charges. (For that, you can read the complaint for yourself. I encourage you to read it, as it is a primer on the political corruption all too prevalent in our nation.) But clearly the most disturbing and potentially explosive incident documented by authorities relates to Blagojevich’s appalling attempt to "sell" Obama’s vacant Senate seat. Again, according to the Tribune:
The [arrest] affidavit quoted the governor on a telephone call the day before Obama won his historic presidential victory talking about driving a "hard bargain." Blagojevich called the Senate seat "a [expletive] valuable thing. You just don’t give it away for nothing."
"I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden and uh, uh, I’m not just giving it up for [expletive] nothing," he said two days later, according to the affidavit.
Among the prizes Blagojevich envisioned were a position in Obama’s Cabinet, an ambassadorship, a $300,000 job with a union-backed group–even a highly paid position for his wife, Patricia.
(Blagojevich is alleged to have said that if he did not get an offer to his liking, that he would appoint himself to the Senate seat.)
What did Barack Obama know about Blagojevich’s scheme and when did he know it? Did Obama report Blagojevich to investigators about any efforts to sell his Senate seat? (Concealing a felony from authorities is a crime punishable up to 3 years of prison.)
Clearly at least one high level advisor to Obama (named "President-Elect Advisor" in the complaint) was approached about striking a deal for the Senate seat. Among other benefits, Blagojevich sought to be named head of a foundation in exchange for naming Obama’s chosen successor. The complaint also references discussions with a leader of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) over a three-way deal involving Obama, SEIU and Blagojevich.
Obama, for his part, publicly denied having any conversations with Blagojevich regarding the Senate seat, but there seems to be some confusion on this point.US News and World Report reported Wednesday that Obama’s denial appeared to "contradict remarks by his adviser David Axelrod in an interview last month.
Axelrod, a former Blagojevich adviser, now conveniently says he "misspoke."
Obama’s likely intermediary to Blagojevich, ("President-Elect Adviser") Rahm Emanuel, is refusing to answer questions about the scandal.
Importantly, Obama, while denying direct personal involvement, has failed to deny that members of his team had been approached by Blagojevich. Yet, for days now, Obama has refused to tell the American people any of the details of his camp’s discussions with Blagojevich. Obama’s lapdog media is trying to give Obama protection from this scandal, but don’t you believe them.
This is a burgeoning crisis for Obama that should shake his presidency to its core.
The Obama-Blagojevich scandal is still unraveling. The person widely believed to be the Obama’s desired selection for his Senate seat was his political godmother (and slumlord), Valerie Jarrett. Accordingly, there is no doubt in my mind that Obama and his top people were considering Blagojevich’s corrupt demands. Everyone in Illinois knew what Blago was up to! And Obama’s Chicago-based transition team wasn’t? This scandal is not going away.
Judicial Watch will continue investigating and reporting to you for as long as it takes.
House Ethics Panel Expands Rangel Probe
From the "Be careful what you wish for" files…
Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel took the unusual step of filing an ethics complaint against himself earlier this year related to scandals involving unpaid taxes and rent-controlled apartments. This act was clearly a publicity stunt, but regardless, The House Ethics Committee took the New York Congressman up on his request, and just this week decided to expand the scope of its investigation.
The House ethics committee voted on Tuesday to expand its investigation into Representative Charles B. Rangel to examine his role in preserving a tax loophole for an oil drilling company whose chief executive pledged $1 million to a City College of New York project that will bear the congressman’s name.
Mr. Rangel, whose personal finances and fund-raising have been the subject of an inquiry for several months, came under renewed scrutiny last month, when The New York Times reported that he was a pivotal figure in stymieing efforts to close a tax shelter for Nabors Industries and three other companies during the same month that the chief executive of Nabors made a $100,000 donation to C.C.N.Y.’s Rangel Center of Public Service.
The chief executive, Eugene M. Isenberg, had acknowledged that he and a company lobbyist met with Mr. Rangel at the Carlyle Hotel in New York on Feb. 12, 2007, the same day that the Ways and Means Committee, of which Mr. Rangel is chairman, was considering a bill that left the loophole intact, but said they did not discuss his pledge to donate $1 million to the school.
As you may recall, the initial transgressions that led to the ethics panel probe involve: The Congressman’s failure to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income he earned from his off-shore rental property; his efforts to use his influence to keep hold of highly coveted rent-controlled apartments in Harlem; and misusing his congressional office to fundraise for his private Rangel Center.
The speculation is that if the probe continues into January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will remove him from his Chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for tax and healthcare legislation.
Pelosi should not wait. Rangel should be stripped of his leadership position immediately. But Pelosi only seems to be worried about the ethics lapses of her political opposition and countenances it in her own house.
In the meantime, Rangel is free to continue his corrupt ways as he writes our nation’s tax laws.
Obama’s Homeland Security Pick Soft on Illegal Immigration
For those of you keeping track, so far Barack Obama seeks to appoint a corrupt and polarizing politician to serve as the nation’s top diplomat (Hillary Clinton). He appointed a former Clinton "attack dog" as his Chief of Staff (Rahm Emanuel, or "Rahmbo" as he is known). He seeks to appoint a former Clinton Deputy Attorney General who helped push and protect the most corrupt acts by a president in recent memory as his top law enforcement officer (Marc Rich pardon advocate, Eric Holder). And he appointed a former Clinton official who was in charge at the Energy Department while nuclear secrets were stolen and sold to the Chinese to run his Commerce Department (Bill Richardson).
So why not appoint a Homeland Security Secretary who is soft on illegal immigration?
This week, Barack Obama tapped two-term Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to lead the Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency in charge of protecting the nation’s borders.
The mainstream press, of course, loves the pick, claiming that Napolitano is a moderate politician who has taken a "hawkish" approach to illegal immigration when necessary. Sounds good, until you consider what passes for "hawkish" on illegal immigration from the perspective of the mainstream press:
Napolitano opposed building a fence on the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
Napolitano vetoed a bill that would have made illegal immigration a violation of the state’s trespassing law.
Napolitano vetoed a bill that would have cut public services, such as in-state tuition, for illegal aliens. The bill nixed by Napolitano would have also encouraged cooperation between local authorities and federal immigration officials to crack down on illegal immigration crime.
Napolitano vetoed a bill that would have made English the official language.
Napolitano vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the Mexican Matricula Consular card from being used as a valid form of identification. The card, which undermines our nation’s sovereignty, is easy to forge and, for this reason, is in high-demand in the black market for fraudulent documents.
Napolitano has been a strong advocate for expanding the federal government’s corrupt H-1B visa program, which allows employers to hire educated foreign workers. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) study found that 21% of these visas contained fraudulent information or "technical violations" of federal laws and regulations.
Napolitano did sign a sanctions law to punish companies that employ illegal aliens, but only in an effort to block a tougher law that voters would have passed by referendum.
So, given all of the evidence to the contrary, where does Napolitano’s "hawkish" reputation come from?
In 2005, Napolitano declared a bogus "state of emergency" in Arizona sending 170 National Guardsmen down to "manage" the flood of illegal immigrants. Of course, this was really nothing more than a publicity stunt intended to give the public (and voters) the impression that Napolitano was tough on illegal immigration. Apparently it worked. She was reelected Governor in 2006 and now finds herself on the verge of becoming the nation’s top security official.
Under her watch, we can expect even less enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws. And less homeland security.
Until next week…
Tom Fitton President
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