From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Judicial Watch Testifies in Blagojevich Impeachment Hearing
On Wednesday, Judicial Watch Director of Litigation Paul Orfanedes was invited to testify in the Illinois House of Representatives impeachment hearing of Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested last week for attempting to "sell" Barack Obama’s now vacant Senate seat, among other corruption charges. It was a tight turn around, but Paul made the trip from DC to Springfield, Illinois and testified yesterday before the 21-member Special Investigative Committee that will eventually make a recommendation to the full Illinois House as to whether or not to move forward with impeachment proceedings against the embattled Illinois governor.
The invitation is a testament not only to Judicial Watch’s reputation as the nation’s most effective government watchdog organization, but also specifically to our work in holding Governor Blagojevich to account.
As I mentioned previously, we’ve been investigating Blagojevich for a while now for the very crimes that prompted his arrest last week. In fact, on January 16, 2007, we filed a lawsuit in the Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court seeking all documents, including any and all grand jury subpoenas received by the Governor’s office, related to the ongoing Blagojevich corruption investigation. (The subpoenas reportedly were issued by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office.)
Blagojevich’s office tried to lie and stonewall their way out of releasing these documents. First, Blagojevich’s legal counsel said the documents were exempted for release. When the state’s top law enforcement officer, Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan, called the Governor to the carpet, saying he could not legally withhold these documents, Blagojevich then tried to go around Madigan and hire a personal attorney to represent him instead.
Judicial Watch filed a motion for default in this lawsuit last week. It seems the impeachment committee considers Blagojevich’s refusal to follow state FOIA law as part of a pattern of abuse of power.
With specific relevance to the Obama senate seat allegations, on December 15th, we filed yet another Illinois Freedom of Information Act request with the Office of the Governor. Here’s what we’re after:
Any and all communications between Governor Rod Blagojevich and President-Elect Barack Obama;
Any and all communications between the Office of the Governor, including but not limited to Governor Rod Blagojevich and/or Governor Blagojevich’s Chief of Staff John Harris, and representatives of the Office of the President-Elect;
Any and all communications between the office of the Governor, including but not limited to Governor Rod Blagojevich and/or Governor Blagojevich’s Chief of Staff John Harris, and representatives of the Obama-Biden Transition Project; and
Any and all communications between the office of the Governor, including but not limited to Governor Rod Blagojevich and/or Governor Blagojevich’s Chief of Staff John Harris, and representatives of the Service Employees International Union regarding the appointment of a replacement for President-Elect Barack Obama’s now-vacant Senate seat.
Obviously, we expect a fierce battle over these documents and we are prepared for it.
The Blagojevich scandal is not going to go away. The Chicago Tribune reported last Saturday that "communications between [incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel and the Blagojevich administration were captured on court-approved wiretaps." Moreover, it appears Emanuel, at Obama’s urging, presented Blagojevich’s representatives with a list of preferred Senate appointees.
Of course, neither Obama nor Emanuel are commenting on any of this, hiding behind the old "I’m not going to comment on an ongoing investigation" line. Obama even told one reporter who dared ask about the scandal earlier this week "don’t waste your question." (You can watch the video here.) So much for openness, integrity and transparency. More information may be dumped over Christmas, so stay alert.
While Obama and Emanuel try to get their stories straight, we’ll continue to dig for answers.
Stay tuned. Remember, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald led the Valerie Plame leak investigation that lingered on for many months and included testimony from many top Bush officials. This scandal is just getting started. And once again, Judicial Watch is right in the middle of it.
Obama Secretary of Commerce Richardson Under Investigation by Grand Jury
While Barack Obama and his chief of staff are in the middle of the Blagojevich mess, another top Obama appointee has his own influence peddling scandal to deal with. I’m referring to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson who is tapped to be Obama’s Secretary of Commerce.
A federal grand jury is investigating whether a financial firm improperly won more than $1.4 million in work for the state of New Mexico shortly after making contributions to political action committees of Gov. Bill Richardson (D).
The probe focuses on whether the governor’s office urged a state agency to hire CDR Financial Products. The probe is in a highly active stage at a time when President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Richardson as his nominee for secretary of commerce, according to two sources familiar with the investigation…
…The inquiry is part of a long-running nationwide investigation into "pay-to-play" practices in local government bond markets. In other cities, federal investigators are questioning whether financial firms have lavished politicians with money and gifts in exchange for fee-paying work advising municipal and local governments on investments.
Between 2003-2004, CDR, a Beverly Hills based financial services company, donated $75,000 to an organization called Si Se Puede (or "Yes We Can), which paid for expenses at the Democratic National Convention. The company’s founder, David Rubin, also chipped in an additional $25,000 in support of an organization that helped Richardson court Latino voters (Moving America Forward). When CDR applied for the financial services contract, according to the Post, they were not even in the top three bidders. However, after a little internal finagling, CDR was awarded the lucrative contract. Following the example of Obama, Richardson is refusing to answer questions about the scandal.
As I told you a few weeks back, Richardson is no stranger to corruption. After all, he was the man in charge at the Clinton Energy Department when nuclear secrets were stolen from Los Alamos Laboratory and transferred to the Communist Chinese. (He ruined the subsequent investigation through improper leaks.) He also attempted to buy Monica Lewinsky’s silence by offering her a job when he served as Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations.
So is it really that far of a stretch to think he may have awarded government contracts to a campaign contributor? (As an aside, the Blagojevich wiretaps suggest that he thought the Energy Department – Richardson’s old perch – was the place to make money. I’m interested in knowing who Blagojevich was referencing as having illicitly benefited from appointment as Energy chief.)
The latest grand jury investigation is yet another reason that either Obama should withdraw Richardson’s name or the Senate should reject his nomination.
After 10 Years of Secrecy, Clintons Release Names of Clinton Foundation Donors
At long last, Bill and Hillary Clinton have released the names of donors to the Clinton Foundation. Not because it was the right thing to do, mind you, but rather because it was a pre-condition of Hillary Clinton taking the job as Obama’s Secretary of State. For ten years, the Clintons fought tooth and nail to keep the names secret until, of course, it served their political interests.
Unfortunately (and predictably) the documents raise more questions than they answer.
For example, there are no dates listed for when donations were made to the foundation, which makes it virtually impossible to determine if any specific favors were traded for contributions. No exact giving amounts were listed either, only ranges of contributions.
Still, the names do present fodder for consideration. Of course, there are the usual suspects. Denise Richards, whose ex-husband received one of Bill Clinton’s controversial last-minute pardons, gave between $250,000 to $500,000 to the foundation. Freddie Mac stroked a check somewhere in the $50,000 to $100,000 range, as did other large corporations such as General Motors and Goldman Sachs.
But of particular concern, given the position to which Hillary aspires, are all of the foreign contributions. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for example, gave between $10 million and $25 million. Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Italy and Jamaica all gave generously as well. Moreover, as The Associated Press notes, "Some of the [Clinton Foundation] donors have extensive ties to Indian interests that could prove troubling to Pakistan. Tensions between the two nuclear nations are high since last month’s deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai."
The key question is this: Will the generosity of all of these international donors to the Clinton Foundation go unnoticed by a Secretary of State Clinton as she crafts U.S. diplomatic policy? Foreign nationals and governments do not see much distinction between the United States government and Clinton, Inc. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State would be like hanging a "For Sale" sign on our foreign policy.
The Clintons have a terrible record of selling public office for their private and political gain. These foundation donations (along with the personal income Clinton raked in from dubious sources) show that the Clintons have no shame when it comes to leveraging their power for illicit money.
Look, I can give you more than a dozen reasons why Hillary Clinton should not be the Secretary of State, beginning with her long history of crooked and criminal behavior. But even if you’re willing to ignore her entire corrupt record, the "cosmic ties," of Bill Clinton, as Senator Dick Lugar called them, are of serious concern.
The Senate should reject Hillary’s nomination and Obama should appoint someone without all of the ethical baggage and suspicious ties that Hillary brings with her. And certainly, the Senate should spend more than the proverbial two minutes they plan to consider her nomination.
(By the way, we held a powerful panel at the National Press Club this week examining the constitutional ineligibility of Hillary Clinton to serve as Secretary of State. Joining us were Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute and John O’Connor of the law firm Steptoe & Johnson. Mr. Shapiro has been raising the clarion call on this issue for some time and Mr. O’Connor wrote what most consider to be the authoritative legal analysis on this issue. And for those of you wondering, Senator Ken Salazar is also ineligible to lead the Interior Department because of the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.)
RIP Paul Weyrich
Today is a sad day for conservatives all across America. Paul Weyrich, one of the founding fathers of the conservative movement, died yesterday. He was 66 years old. Mr. Weyrich helped found the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation and was the founder and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation. He had a hand in helping create more effective conservative groups than I can name. I first came to know Mr. Weyrich almost 20 years ago when I began my career in the conservative movement. I remember asking him in 1990 (at a conservative meeting in Vienna, Austria of all places) who he thought then-President George H.W. Bush was going to appoint to a just-vacant Supreme Court seat. Paul predicted acerbically, "A New England Yankee just like him!" Sure enough, David Souter was nominated a day or two later. Paul had it right – both in attitude and accuracy!
I worked for him and with him, so I can tell you this: Few were more dedicated to advocating for freedom (at home and abroad), a strong national defense, and protecting traditional moral values (including the right to life) than Paul Weyrich. He devoted his entire professional life to these causes. Along the way, Judicial Watch is proud to have had him as a client.
All of us who call ourselves conservatives owe Mr. Weyrich a debt of gratitude. I, for one, would not be at Judicial Watch if not for the opportunities he generously offered me. He will be missed. He left behind a wonderful and large family, so please extend them your prayers during the Christmas season.
Until next week…
Tom Fitton President
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.