From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Will Overseas Military Have Their Votes Counted?
You may recall that in July columnist Robert Novak made the startling assertion that many overseas military personnel might not have their votes counted in this year’s election. Novak noted that according to the Federal Election Assistance Commission overseas and absentee military voting rates were only 5.5% for the 2006 mid-term elections. Based on these figures, some, including Judicial Watch, began to question whether the Department of Defense is doing what it should to make sure that members of the American Armed Forces stationed overseas will be able to cast their votes.
Here’s a bit more from Novak’s article, which can be read in its entirety here:
“Nobody who has studied the question objectively thinks there has been any improvement since 2006, and that is a scandal. Retired Marine Corps Capt. Charles Henry wrote in the July issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine: ‘While virtually everyone involved . . . seems to agree that military people deserve at least equal opportunity when it comes to having their votes counted, indications are that in November 2008, many thousands of service members who try to vote will do so in vain.'”
Following the Novak article, on August 7, 2008, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Defense to obtain as much information as possible regarding the voting process for overseas military personnel.
The Department of Defense failed to respond to our request within legally mandated 20-day period forcing Judicial Watch to file a lawsuit on Wednesday. Here is a summary of the information we’re after:
- All documents concerning or relating to the Department’s procedure of providing members of the Armed Forces with Federal Post Card Applications;
- All documents concerning or relating to how the Department informs members of the Armed Forces of their right and ability to vote in the 2008 Federal Election;
- All documents concerning or relating to how the votes of members of the Armed Forces will be collected and counted for the 2008 Federal Election;
- All documents concerning or relating to the January 15, 2008 deadline for providing members of the Armed Forces with post card applications;
- All documents concerning or relating to Armed Forces Voter Week 2008; and
- All documents concerning or relating to the Department’s implementation of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act with respect to the 2008 Federal Election.
It is beyond shameless that we are now less than three weeks out from the 2008 elections and we still do not know whether military personnel and their families stationed overseas will be able to exercise effectively their basic right to vote. What a scandal it will be if large numbers of our overseas military do not have their votes counted this Election Day. You can be sure we will continue to press the Defense Department to stop stonewalling so the American people can know with confidence that the voting rights of the American Armed Forces are protected. It is the least we can do for those who pay the price for our freedoms, which, of course, includes the right to vote. I’d be interested in hearing from military members and their families about this issue so please contact us with any concerns or experiences you’d like to share.
JUDICIAL WATCH VICTORY: Court of Appeal Rules Judicial Double Dipping Scheme Violates California Constitution
On October 10th, Judicial Watch earned another major victory against government waste, fraud, and abuse that could ultimately save Los Angeles taxpayers $21 million annually.
Last Friday, the California Court of Appeals ruled that a scheme by Los Angeles County to pay superior court judges in the county approximately $21 million annually in perks and benefits on top of what they already receive from the state violates the California State Constitution. You may recall that Judicial Watch filed a taxpayer lawsuit in April 2006 challenging the legality of the extra compensation. With its decision the appellate court reversed a lower court that had ruled in favor of Los Angeles County.
Here’s an excerpt from the 37-page decision issued by Associate Justice Patricia Benke:
“Section 19, article VI of the California Constitution requires that the Legislature ‘prescribe compensation for judges of courts of record.’ The duty to prescribe judicial compensation is not delegable. Thus the practice of the County of Los Angeles (the county) providing Los Angeles County superior court judges with employment benefits, in addition to the compensation prescribed by the Legislature, is not permissible. Accordingly, we must reverse an order granting summary judgment in favor of the county in an action brought by a taxpayer who challenged the validity of the benefits the county provides to its superior court judges.”
This decision could put to an end a Los Angeles County scheme that has been going on for more than a decade. Since 1998, Los Angeles County has continued to provide at least $120 million in taxpayer funded perks and supplemental benefits to judges in the county despite the California Constitution’s clear mandate that only the legislature can set the level of compensation received by judges. This is a colossal waste of taxpayer funds.
Here’s just one example to make the point: In 2007 Los Angeles County provided the judges with cash allowances equal to 19% of the salary they received from the state. With this allowance, judges could either purchase additional health, life, disability and other benefits from the county’s MegaFlex benefits plan on a pre-tax basis or keep the cash as taxable income.
Overall, each superior court judge was eligible to receive $46,436 in supplemental compensation from Los Angeles County, an additional 27% of the salary received from the state, for a total cost of $21 million in fiscal year 2007 alone.
This case went to the integrity of the court system. Plainly, judges should not take money in violation of a state’s constitution.
Congratulations go to Judicial Watch Litigation Director Paul J. Orfanedes and Judicial Watch’s senior California attorney Sterling “Ernie” Norris, who jointly handled the Sturgeon litigation.
If you would like more information on this case, click here.
Judicial Watch Calls on Barack Obama to Disclose Names of Donors
Last week, I told you about allegations of massive voter fraud involving ACORN, a radical leftist organization with deep ties to Senator Barack Obama. (At last count, I believe authorities are investigating voter fraud allegations against ACORN in 14 states. Now, the FBI is also investigating.) But so far, another scandal involving the Obama campaign has flown a bit under the radar. And it is equally disturbing. According to The Associated Press:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has raised about $3.3 million from contributors who did not list a home state or who designated their state with an abbreviation that did not match one of the 50 states or U.S. territories, according to records provided by the Federal Election Commission…
The $3.3 million total does not include donors who have given less than $200 and whose contributions do not have to be itemized. Some of that money could also have come from overseas. About half of Obama’s $455 million in contributions so far are unitemized. The campaign does not identify those donors.
In other words, while the evidence suggests illegal foreign contributions are flooding into Obama’s campaign coffers, we have no idea as to the extent of the problem because Senator Obama refuses to divulge the names of all of his donors. When asked about the decision to keep these donor names secret, Obama campaign spokesperson David Axelrod said, “We’re probably more forthcoming about disclosure than anyone.”
While John McCain has had problems of his own for allegedly accepting foreign donations – see Judicial Watch FEC complaint here – to his credit, Senator McCain does publish the names of all donors to his presidential campaign on his Internet site, regardless of the size of the contribution.
Here’s the bottom line: The Obama campaign appears to be playing fast and loose with campaign finance laws and it has to stop. The FEC should immediately investigate these allegations. And, of course, in the interest of transparency, the Obama campaign should publicly list the source of every single campaign contribution. Frankly, it is suspicious that these names have not already been made public.
There is something deeply unsettling about the fact that foreign nationals can so easily corrupt our presidential election through illegal contributions, while American service men and women stationed overseas may be deprived of the opportunity to even vote (see above).
Judicial Watch to Host Educational Panel: The Truth about the Financial Crisis
I’ve written quite a bit about the financial crisis facing our country in this space recently. And next week, I’ll moderate a panel discussion hosted by Judicial Watch entitled, “The Truth about the Financial Crisis” to explore the issue further. The panel will be held Thursday, October 23, 1-2:30 pm in the Zenger Room of the National Press Club. Among other things, we’ll talk about the roles that political corruption, special interest groups and government regulation have had in creating today’s financial crisis.
As usual, we have assembled an impressive group of experts on the issue, including: John Berlau, Director, Center for Entrepreneurship, Competitive Enterprise Institute; Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director of Center for Responsive Politics; John Tamny, editor of RealClearMarkets; and Alan Reynolds, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.
Those of you in the D.C. area, hope to see you there!
Until next week…
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.