MARCH 23, 2012
JW Takes Two Key Actions in the Battle against Obamacare on Eve of Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Judicial Watch took two significant actions this week on Obamacare, just days before the United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a consolidated Obamacare lawsuit.
First, there is the matter of Justice Kagan and any role she may have had in crafting Obamacare’s legal defense when she served as Obama’s Solicitor General.
The evidence uncovered by Judicial Watch seems to contradict the Obama administration’s claim that Justice Kagan was “walled off” from these discussions. On the basis of our discoveries, many have called on Justice Kagan to recuse herself from hearing the lawsuit.
On Thursday, I sent a letter on behalf of Judicial Watch directly to Justice Kagan. The letter respectfully asks that she disclose the facts and legal analysis surrounding any recusal decision she has made on Obamacare so that the American people can have absolute confidence in the fair administration of justice in this historic Supreme Court litigation.
The following are key excerpts from the Judicial Watch letter, which you can read in full here:
- “The failure of the Justice department to produce requested records in a timely manner, the dribbling out of requested records over time, the redaction and withholding of other records, and the refusal to respond to requests for records and information from several members of Congress have contributed to the substantial impression that additional details about your tenure as Solicitor General and the enactment and subsequent legal defense of the PPACA [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] are being withheld from the American people. However, [as] the Court ultimately rules on the various legal challenges to the PPACA, it would be extraordinarily unfortunate if the Court’s decision were overshadowed by controversy over your participation in the matter. It would leave a cloud hanging over the Court’s decision and could undermine public confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the Court as an institution.”
- “Judicial Watch is not calling on you to recuse yourself from the PPACA litigation at this time, just as Judicial Watch did not call on Justice Scalia to recuse himself from the litigation involving the National Energy Policy Development Group (‘NEPDG’) – to which Judicial Watch was a party – in 2004. When a controversy arose during the course of the NEPDG litigation over whether Justice Scalia should recuse himself from that matter, Justice Scalia issued an opinion stating: ‘The decision whether a judge’s impartiality can “reasonably be questioned” is to be made in light of the facts as they existed, and not as they were surmised or reported.’ Justice Scalia then provided a comprehensive recitation of the facts ‘as they existed,’ not as they were ‘surmised or reported,’ and an articulation of the reasoning behind his decision not to recuse himself.”
- “During your confirmation process, you wrote that you would ‘consider carefully the recusal practices of current and past Justices’ as well as consult with your colleagues if questions about recusal in particular cases arose. Judicial Watch believes that it would be of substantial benefit to the Court’s consideration of the legal challenges to the PPACA if, like Justice Scalia in the NEPDG matter, you were to address the facts surrounding your tenure as Solicitor General and the enactment and subsequent legal defense of the PPACA as they ‘existed,’ not as they are being ‘surmised or reported,’ as well as provide an articulation of your reasoning behind any decision regarding recusal.”
Second, on Thursday we hosted an educational panel/press event at Judicial Watch’s headquarters, entitled, “Obamacare Update: In the Courts and In Practice.” This panel contemplated the major legal and logistical problems with Obamacare, specifically the so-called “individual mandate,” which would require American citizens to buy healthcare insurance or pay a fine. Not to overstate it, but the panel was great.
Our event included top experts on the issue, including former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum; Betsy McCaughey, President of Defend Your Healthcare, former Lieutenant Governor of New York; and Lee A. Casey, Partner at Baker Hostetler. (Unfortunately, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who was scheduled for the panel, could not attend because his plane was waylaid by fog.) These three individuals are leaders in the push to put Obamacare back on its heels.
Here’s a squib from my opening remarks. (You can watch the panel in full here.)
Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of the imposition of Obamacare on the American people. And next week we will hear historic constitutional challenges to Obamacare, otherwise known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Obamacare is an unprecedented government power grab and is a fundamental threat to our nation’s constitutional order. The challenges being next week by the High Court seek to vindicate federalism, individual liberty, and limited, constitutional government.
Many Americans (including, thankfully, some federal court judges) simply reject the notion that the federal government can, for example, force Americans to buy health insurance. As U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who ruled against the individual mandate, wrote:
It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power” [Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only. Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended.
“A Constitution in name only.” Well the Founding Fathers didn’t intend that, but “a Constitution in name only” is but one of the awful possible outcomes if the Obamacare constitutional court challenges don’t succeed.
But in the meantime the crisis is ongoing: from the corruption of Obamacare’s passing — remember the Cornhusker Kickback — to the controversy of its implementation, which has seen a vicious attack on the church, waivers to Obama campaign supporters, and taxpayer-funded propaganda (starring Andy Griffith). And don’t even get me started on its $2 trillion in costs and regulatory webs beyond comprehension.
I realize I’ve dedicated quite a bit of space to Obamacare this week. This upcoming decision by the Supreme Court can either reaffirm limited, constitutional government or completely untether federal power from any practical limits on its authority to regulate America. It’s that important. The briefs are in, including our amicus brief, and the arguments will be heard. Let’s pray that a majority of the justices are blessed with the wisdom, discernment, and courage to rule in a way that protects our republican form of government.
Today marks Obamacare’s second birthday. Whatever the High Court decides, let’s work to make sure that Obamacare doesn’t see a third.
JW Uncovers More Documents Detailing Bloated Fed Salaries at Government Finance Agencies
A few months back you may recall that Judicial Watch reported that hundreds of federal financial regulators were taking in pay exceeding $225,000.00 – with more than 20 of the individuals making more than a quarter million dollars per year. (By way of comparison, as CNS News has pointed out, these consumer “protection” bureaucrats are making more money than members of Congress, including the Speaker of the House!)
Well, given the failing economy and our massive federal deficit spending, Judicial Watch’s discovery led to a barrage of press reports. Our independent investigation once again caught the attention of Congress, specifically the House Financial Services Committee, which held a hearing to investigate the massive growth of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), one of the unfortunate products of the federal bailout scheme. According to the LA Times:
House Republicans…criticized spending by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose budget will increase by 26% in 2013 to $448 million, saying lawmakers have no say over how the agency doles out the money….
The committee summoned the agency’s newly installed director, Richard Cordray, to a hearing on the agency’s spending plans for 2013 and criticized some of the salaries it has been paying and, more broadly, what they said was a lack of detail on its budget.
Under the 2010 financial reform law, the agency doesn’t get its money through the congressional appropriations process. Instead, the money comes from a separate, dedicated funding stream from the Federal Reserve’s coffers….
Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) grilled Cordray on salaries at the bureau, citing findings by watchdog group Judicial Watch that an intern was earning $42,000 annually and an associate director for consumer education was earning $251,000 a year. Such high salaries were unjustified, he said.
(Click here for some background on Cordray.)
Following this hearing, Judicial Watch released documents providing more details regarding these bloated salaries. In fact, thanks to the persistence of JW’s investigations team, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) was finally forced to disclose the names and salaries of its top-earning bureaucrats.
You can read the documents in their entirety here, but the following are just a few egregious examples: On December 5, 2010, the OCC promoted Joyce Cofield to Executive Director of Workforce Diversity. Her starting pay in that position was $246,600. The OCC also adjusted the pay of its Deputy Comptroller for Public Affairs Robert Garsson to a salary of $247,500. Larry Hattix was paid $246,081 in his slot as Ombudsman.
Perhaps the most curious hire was the intern referenced by Congressman Posey. Kevin Kenneth Lownds, then a second-year student at Georgetown University Law Center, who volunteered on July 6, 2010, to intern at the Obama Treasury Department starting on August 30, 2010. He was later transferred to the CFPB along with a request that Human Resources create a paid position for Lownds because there was no specific opening to be filled. Human Resources did just that, installing Lownds in a position paying $42,209 per year.
Within six weeks of starting at CFPB, Mr. Lownds’ rate of pay increased another $9,411 for a total of $51,620!
(Remember, this was all taking place when the rest of the federal government was under an alleged pay freeze.)
Now, as I told you a few months back when we released the original documents, in some cases these agencies hired employees at salaries twice the maximum ordinarily allowed under guidelines published each year by the Office of Personnel Management. The OCC originally failed to provide the legal authority for this shocking departure from policy.
Well, this time they came clean. According to the documents, most of the agency’s increases during the period requested by Judicial Watch relied on a law specific to OCC, which provides that its compensation can be set “without regard to the provisions of other laws applicable to officers or employees of the United States.”
In other words, when it comes to compensation guidelines, these agencies answer to no one. This is precisely the kind of waste and fraud one might expect to take place when the government creates whole new federal agencies to “manage” the affairs of the private sector.
These financial agency salary documents are a perfect example of the type of gamesmanship our investigations team has to endure on a daily basis from the super secretive Obama administration. Judicial Watch had to push hard for these documents. Finally, the OCC’s Deputy Counsel admitted to an error in the initial document production: “Having reviewed this matter, we have determined that some of the information that was previously withheld from you should be provided to you,” he wrote in correspondence accompanying the documents.
Again, congratulations to our investigations team for staying persistent and aggressive.
New Judicial Watch Documentary and Book to Expose Washington Corruption
If you’ve been reading this space for some time, you know that Judicial Watch is very creative in using all public education tools at its disposal to make sure the American people know about our campaign against government corruption.
From our comprehensive and recently re-designed website, to social networking platforms, to aggressive media campaigns and this Weekly Update, we leave no stone unturned when it comes to exposing political corruption in the public arena.
And that’s why I’m very excited to tell you about two brand new projects that will take our public education campaign to a whole new level.
First, Victory Film Group, the production company behind the Sarah Palin film The Undefeated, is now producing a film about your Judicial Watch. Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon, the film will be released in the summer of 2012. It will chronicle Judicial Watch’s battles to clean up government corruption in Washington, DC, focusing most comprehensively on Judicial Watch’s efforts to counter the unprecedented corruption and secrecy of the permanent political class and, currently, the Obama administration.
Among the egregious scandals to be covered: “Fast and Furious;” Solyndra and “Green Energy;” federal bailouts and earmarks; the New Black Panthers; ACORN and voter registration fraud; stealth amnesty; threats to the integrity of the 2012 elections; and new attacks on government transparency and accountability.
Many of you have probably heard the name Steve Bannon. In addition to The Undefeated, Steve is the award-winning filmmaker behind some other critically acclaimed documentaries and feature films including: In The Face of Evil, Still Point in a Turning World, and The Tea Party Trilogy: Generation Zero; Fire From the Heartland, and Battle for America.
Steve is a former Naval Officer and Goldman Sachs investment banker, a co-founder of the National Tea Party Federation, and is a frequent speaker at Tea Party conventions and conferences. He is also host of The Victory Sessions, a nationally syndicated weekend radio program, and is the newly named Executive Chairman of Breitbart News Network (the parent company of Breitbart.com). That announcement came just this week.
Here’s what Steve had to say regarding his plans for this film:
In the long-running battle to save our country from the big government corruption and cronyism that now threatens its very foundations, Judicial Watch is the tip of the spear. We will not pull a single punch. We will be brutally honest. And we will name names – from both political parties. But we will also provide a reason to hope.
This new Judicial Watch film is a companion piece to another major project, my upcoming book, “The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government.” The Judicial Watch book is scheduled to for release in July, 2012, from Simon & Schuster’s Threshold Editions.
These two new projects are certain to not only provide you with great information but educate a whole new audience about the battles to clean up and to open up the government.
Until next week….