MAY 30, 2014
Judicial Watch Sues Obama Justice Department on behalf of ATF Fast & Furious Whistleblower Dodson
Judicial Watch has a long history of protecting whistleblowers, the brave government insiders who expose corruption, incompetence and abuse of power inside the federal government. Often these individuals are subjected to all manner of retaliation and abuse in order to keep them quiet and to discourage other would-be truth-tellers.
And in this is exactly what is happening now to ATF Special Agent John Dodson, who blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious, the Obama Justice Department’s insane scheme to allow weapons to “walk” across the border and into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels. Dodson has been subjected to a Obama appointee-orchestrated smear campaign designed to destroy his reputation, and JW is now coming to his aid.
On May 28, 2014, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of Dodson, who filed three FOIA requests back on September 24, 2012, seeking the following information:
a) Any and all emails between (either directed to or received from) DOJ Spokeswoman/Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler and Katherine Eban, between the dates of January 20, 2011 and September 24, 2012.
b) All emails (sent and received) by DOJ Spokeswoman/Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler that contain the name John Dodson, Dodson, or make reference to any ATF whistleblower (whether directly stated or implied), between the dates of January 20, 2011 and September 24, 2012.
c) All Department of Justice communications generated between January 20, 2010 and September 24, 2012 including, but not limited to, emails, internal memos, letters, drafts, recordings and other documents, which refer to me (Special Agent John Dodson) whether by name or implication, or make reference to me as an ATF whistleblower, whether directly stated or implied. Excluded from this request are my own ATF case files, case documents, and emails from my ATF/DOJ email account.
To date, the DOJ has failed to respond to Dodson’s requests. Our lawsuit on behalf of Dodson asks that the District Court order the DOJ to conduct searches for all records responsive to the FOIA requests and to “produce, by a certain date, any and all non-exempt records,” along with indices of all records that the DOJ continues to declare exempt.
Now, why would Dodson (and now Judicial Watch) be interested in communications involving Schmaler and the Fortune magazine writer?
Evidence suggests Schmaler leaked information about Dodson to Eban, including Dodson’s confidential personnel file. The alleged purpose was to smear Dobson’s name and to undermine his credibility. In 2011, Dodson became the first ATF special agent to go public with allegations that his supervisors had authorized the flow of weapons into Mexico as part of the failed Fast and Furious gun-walking operation.
In May 2013, the Justice Department’s Inspector General published a report confirming that senior officials at DOJ, including Schmaler, discussed discrediting Dodson. Schmaler resigned her position at the DOJ in March 2013 after news broke that she had worked with leftwing Obama ally Media Matters to discredit Dodson, other whistleblowers, members of Congress, and reporters who sought to investigate DOJ scandals.
(Incidentally, Eban’s June 2012 Fortune magazine article defending the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was denounced by the House Oversight Committee, which publicly called for a retraction.)
John Dodson offered the following statement in conjunction with the filing of the lawsuit: “For almost two years, the Obama Justice Department has stonewalled my efforts to receive information about me. It is disappointing that I have to sue to receive information about how my employer provided personal and confidential information about me to eager reporters willing to tell the administration’s side of the story.”
It is clear that Special Agent Dodson was smeared by DOJ officials for having the courage to be the first whistleblower in the Fast and Furious scandal. And it is equally clear that those who attacked him have gone unpunished, despite the disciplinary provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act. Perhaps once we have the complete records of Ms. Schmaler’s actions, the Office of Special Counsel will do its job and we will finally see justice prevail.
The Dodson FOIA lawsuit is not the first such suit Judicial Watch has filed against the Obama administration seeking records related to the Fast and Furious scandal. (And it likely won’t be the last.)
On October 11, 2011, we sued the DOJ and the ATF to obtain all Fast and Furious records submitted to the House Committee on Oversight. On June 6, 2012, we sued the ATF seeking access to records detailing communications between ATF officials and Kevin O’Reilly, former Obama White House Director of North American Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.
On September 13, 2012, we filed a lawsuit against the DOJ for records regarding President Obama’s claim of executive privilege after Holder’s refusal to produce records for the House Oversight Committee.
On September 5, 2013, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the DOJ seeking access to all records of communications between DOJ and the Oversight Committee relating to settlement discussions in the Committee’s 2012 contempt of Congress lawsuit against Holder. The contempt citation stemmed from Holder’s refusal to turn over documents to Congress related to the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal.
Fast and Furious is one of the most serious scandals in modern political history. And this effort to smear and silence John Dodson is yet another in a long line of actions taken by Obama administration officials to conceal the truth from Judicial Watch, Congressional investigators and the American people.
We will do all we can to make certain they do not get away with it.
What an honor it is for Judicial Watch to be able to represent American heroes like Special Agent John Dodson. And thank you for the support you give us that allows us to go to court on behalf of this truly honorable American patriot.
Battlefield Victory but War Continues: IRS Backtracks on Free Speech Regs but Senate attempts to Rewrite First Amendment!
This week I have a victory to report regarding Judicial Watch’s investigation of the IRS attacks on conservative organizations. At the same time, I want to raise a red flag on yet another scheme by the Left to silence conservatives – this time by amending the U.S. Constitution.
First, the good news.
As you might recall, as a component of its all-out assault on “tea-party-like” organizations, the IRS proposed new guidelines that would have crippled the right to Free Speech for conservatives and other Americans across the country.
JW strongly opposed the guidelines, notifying the IRS of its objections and also bringing press attention to the controversy. Now it appears the agency has scuttled its plans – at least for now.
According to Fox News:
The IRS has agreed to overhaul a controversial proposal that Republican lawmakers warned would revive the agency’s “harassment and intimidation” of conservative groups, after receiving a record number of comments on the proposed regulation.
The new rules have been in the works ever since the IRS came under fire for its targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups. In the wake of that scandal, the agency said it wanted to clarify for everybody how tax-exempt groups can engage in political activity – by reining in the political work those groups do.
But Republicans, as well as some on the left, worried the new rules would only exacerbate the kind of targeting that stonewalled Tea Party groups in the first place.
The IRS noted in a statement that it had received some 150,000 comments regarding these new guidelines. Thousands of JW supporters made their views known, so you can savor the victory. JW was perhaps the most forceful and influential voice of opposition.
Among other strong actions, on February 26, 2014, JW sent an official notice to the IRS requesting that the agency direct the Treasury Department to withdraw the guidelines. In the notice, we argued these guidelines represent an “unconstitutional regulation” that “arbitrarily reverses 53 years of administrative and judicial precedent.” More from our letter:
[Judicial Watch] is very concerned about both the opaque process by which the proposed regulations were developed, as well as the context—the apparent abuse of authority and potentially unconstitutional and criminal conduct by IRS employees with respect to the review of applications for exemption under §501(c)(4) filed by hundreds of organizations, the vast majority of which were “tea party” or other organizations supporting conservative policy principles and opposing many of the initiatives promoted by President Obama and his liberal allies—out of which the proposed regulations apparently arose.
The secret manner in which these proposed regulations were developed, and the substantive provisions that would overturn more than 50 years of settled precedent regarding what is “intervention in a political campaign,” only increase the suspicion that the IRS is not attempting to administer the law as it is, but is attempting to arrogate to itself the making of the law, a function belonging solely to Congress, and not to the IRS.
This IRS power play was too much and the Obama IRS will wait until next year before officially trying to stifle more free speech (though we know that they are continuing to oppress conservatives and others opposed to Obama’s policies. A victory? Yes, in the short term. But so pervasive is the Left’s attack on conservative organizations and donors there is no time to celebrate.
While the IRS was having second thoughts on its proposed guidelines, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and his liberal allies in the U.S. Senate were pushing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would silence conservative voices in another manner – by enabling Congress to regulate all campaign contributions and spending!
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wholeheartedly endorsed a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending on Thursday, putting the Senate on course to vote on the matter as early as July.
Reid said that the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the amendment on June 3, which allows Congress and the states to limit fundraising and spending on federal campaigns and gives lawmakers the ability to regulate outside groups. From there, the amendment will go to the Senate floor…
How bad is this proposed amendment?
Even Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who helped craft campaign finance restrictions recently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, said he’d vote against it! McCain called the legislation an “exercise in hypocrisy” for the Left, which champions its own billionaires (see George Soros) while demonizing wealthy supporters of conservative causes (see the Kochs).
Now, as the press points out, Senator Reid does not expect to garner the necessary 67 votes in the Senate to pass the amendment. But passage is a secondary goal here, at least in the short term. The proposed amendment “will still pay dividends in the run-up to the midterm elections,” writes Politico, “painting Republicans as supporters of big money in politics and Democrats as on the side of ordinary voters.”
The craven politics aside, I am worried that a proposal to gut the First Amendment has 41 co-sponsors in the United States Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee is actually having a hearing on gutting the First Amendment on Tuesday, June 3. Here is a link to the list of senators on the Judiciary Committee – you might to want explain to these members and your own senators what you think about this assault on your God-given right of free speech.
Folks, as I said when the Supreme Court campaign finance ruling came down, restricting campaign contributions is not only wrong, it will do little to address the problem of corruption in government:
Judicial Watch believes that better enforcement of bribery and extortion laws are key to fighting government corruption – not self-serving restrictions on free speech by politicians.
More from Air Obama: Judicial Watch Details Costs of Obama’s African Vacation and Presidential Golf Trips
The Obamas clearly either do not understand the value of a dollar – or understand it all too well when someone else is picking up the tab. As you know, Judicial Watch has been keeping close watch on the cost to taxpayers of the Obamas’ vacations and excursions. And this week, we have more information to share with you from the government about Air Obama.
First up: the controversial Obama family vacation to Africa. This week we releasedlodging, security, and entertainment expense records from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security revealing that the Secret Service entourage accompanying President Obama and his family during their trip to sub-Saharan Africa from June 27 to July 3, 2013, incurred $2,189,727.60 in lodging, entertainment, and security expenses alone. The records came in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed on July 3, 2013, with the U.S. Secret Service.
According to the Department of Homeland Security documents:
- Secret Service hotel accommodations for the seven-day excursion cost $953,788.18
- Though the Obama family Tanzania safari was canceled shortly before the Obama’s departure for Africa, Secret Service preparations for the safari still totaled $11,525.75
From June 27 to July 3, 2013, the Obamas visited three countries in Africa: Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. According to reports in the Washington Postin the days leading up to the trip, “One hundred [Secret Service] agents are needed as ‘post-standers’ — to man security checkpoints and borders around the president — in each of the first three cities he visits. Sixty-five are needed to meet up with Obama in Dar es Salaam. . . In addition, 80 to 100 additional agents will be flown in to work rotating shifts, with round-the-clock coverage, for Obama’s and his family’s security details. . .”
In March 2014, Judicial Watch released flight expense records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing that the Obama family also incurred flight expenses of $8,104,224 for flights to, from, and around Africa during the June-July 2013 trip. The trip totaled 35.5 hours at $228,288 an hour. We got the records through a FOIA request. According to numerous press accounts, the total cost of the Obama family trip was estimated to have cost between $60 million and $100 million.
Now, it is important to keep in mind that this outrageously lavish excursion came at the very same time that the president was shutting down White House tours and blaming it on the sequester. As one congressional critic noted at the time, the White House could have 1,350 weeks of tours for the cost of the Obama family’s trip to Africa.”
And what about the costs associated with the president’s near once-a-week golf outings?
As of March 7, 2014, President Barack Obama had played an astounding 163 round of golf. Predictably, as investigative reporter Emily Miller pointed out, “The president is clearly aware of the optics of his disappearing onto a golf course, so he decreases the outings in election years. He played 27 times in 2009, 31 times in 2010, 34 times in 2011 but only 19 times in 2012.” And, in 2013, with his last election safely behind him, he increased to total to a personal record-setting 46.
While Judicial Watch hasn’t kept a running total on the number of Obama’s golf outings, it has kept tabs on what the president’s passion for the links has cost the American people. And on April 30, 2014, we released records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing that President Obama’s February 2014 Palm Springs, California, and March 2014 Key Largo, Florida, golf outings cost the taxpayers $2,952,278 for flight expenses alone.
Here are the details of JW’s discovery:
- According to the Department of Air Force documents, the flights to and from, Palm Springs for the February 17 – 20, 2014 trip totaled 9.8 hours at $210,877 an hour, which comes to a total of $2,066,594.60 in flight expenses. The records came in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of request filed on February 18, 2014.
- Also according to the Department of Air Force documents, the total cost for flights to and from Key Largo, Florida for the March 7 – 9 trip totaled 4.2 hours at $210,877, which comes to a total of $885,683.40 for flight in expenses. The records came in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act request filed on March 10, 2014.
Though the administration claimed the Presidents’ Day weekend trip to California was an effort to highlight the state’s severe water drought, the White House official schedule showed the president spent just four hours at three drought-related events on the afternoon of Friday, February 14.
The president then spent much of the next three days playing golf at some of Coachella Valley, California’s, most exclusive golf courses – which, according to Fox News, “consume roughly 17 percent of all water there, and one quarter of the water pumped out of the region’s at-risk groundwater aquifer.” Each course uses nearly 1 million gallons of water a day.
From March 7–9, the First Family spent Spring Break at Key Largo, Florida’s, exclusive Ocean Reef Club, where members must have a minimum net worth of $35 million to join. According to its website, “the Club boasts two championship 18-hole courses, a rarity in the Florida Keys … a salon and spa, more than a dozen restaurants, a 175-slip marina, a private airport, and so much more.” Ironically, the costly Spring Break vacation took place on the heels of Obama’s State of the Union Address in which he focused on income inequality.
There is no doubt the Obamas continually abuse the perks of the president’s office. And it is particularly laughable that Obama has chosen to take not one but two luxury vacations back-to-back while inveighing against “income equality.” While too many Americans are struggling to make ends meet and fund a debt-ridden government, President Obama is laughing all the way to the 18th hole.
According to records we obtained through FOIA requests and subsequent lawsuits, the Obamas and Bidens have spent more than $40 million taxpayer dollars on trips since 2009, beginning with the Obamas’ much-publicized New York City “date night” in 2009 up through the president’s most recent Palm Springs and Key Largo golf outings.
The most lavish expenditure so far on record was the aforementioned Africa trip and a Honolulu vacation, which cost taxpayers $15,885,585.30 in flight expenses alone. The single largest expense for accommodations was for Michelle Obama’s side-trip to Dublin, Ireland, during the 2013 G-8 conference in Belfast, when she and her entourage booked 30 rooms at the five-star Shelbourne Hotel, with the first lady staying in the 1500 square-foot Princess Grace suite at a cost of $3,500 a night. The total cost to taxpayers for the Obamas’ Ireland trip was $7,921,638.66.
Until next week….