Weekly Update: Judicial Watch Sues VA Again for Docs About Misuse of a Veterans’ Facility
JUNE 30, 2017
Judicial Watch Sues VA Again for Docs About Misuse of a Veterans’ Facility
Judicial Watch Sues for Info on Obama’s War on Coal
EPA Breaks Law on Taxpayer-Funded Propaganda?
Judicial Watch to Trump Administration: End Congress’s Obamacare Exemption!
As you may know, Judicial Watch has taken the lead in trying to highlight the government’s misconduct and misuse of a 388-acre parcel of land in Los Angeles, originally intended to serve the needs of veterans.
In fact, we just filed a second Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) for information regarding non-veteran use of this prime real estate in West Los Angeles, which was set aside nearly 130 years ago to serve as a home for disabled veterans. We filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (No. 1:17-cv- 01078)).
We sued after the VA failed to respond to our April 14, 2017, FOIA request for:
- Any and all lease, land-sharing, enhanced-use, or other land use agreements currently in effect for the West Los Angeles/Greater Los Angeles Campus (“GLA Campus”), including but not limited to agreements with the Regents of the University of California, the Brentwood School, the Veterans Park Conservancy, and the City of Los Angeles.
- Any and all records concerning or relating to the review of all lease, land-sharing, enhanced-use, or other land use agreements at the GLA Campus, as referenced in Appendix H of the GLA Campus Draft Master Plan, issued January 28, 2016.
- Any and all notifications of the Secretary’s intent to enter into or renew any lease, land-sharing, enhanced-use, or other land use agreement for the GLA Campus, as required by Section 2(j)(1) of the West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016, 114 Pub. Law 226:
(i) The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. Senate;
(ii) The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of
(iii) The Committee on Appropriations of the U.S. Senate;
(iv) The Committee on Appropriations of the U.S. House
(v) U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein;
(vi) U.S. Senator Kamala Harris; and
(vii) U.S. Representative Ted Lieu.
The property at issue was deeded to the federal government in 1888 for the specific purpose of providing a home for disabled veterans. It includes a veterans’ home, but over time came to include facilities for entirely unrelated uses such as a stadium for UCLA’s baseball team, an athletic complex for a nearby private prep school, a golf course, laundry facilities for a nearby Marriott hotel, storage and maintenance facilities for 20th Century Fox Television’s production sets, the Brentwood Theatre, soccer practice and match fields for a private girls’ soccer club, a dog park, and a farmer’s market. (We filed our first FOIA lawsuit on this issue back in May.)
Veterans sued the VA to restore the site to its proper use, and some of the non-veteran related uses have been terminated. In October 2015, former VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald and attorneys representing homeless veterans reached a settlement, vowing that the campus would be dedicated to serving and housing veterans in need, particularly those who are female, aging or disabled.
On May 29, 2017, The Los Angeles Times reported:
It’s understandable that this project will take years to complete — that’s calculated into the master plan. It is a colossal undertaking to remake a 388-acre campus. The VA did not even receive the necessary congressional authority to enter into leases with developers and service providers until September.
The problem is, there really is no new development yet. And now the VA says the first phase of 480 units will take four years to install, not 2½.
[T]he VA didn’t hire consultants to implement the master plan and conduct a lengthy environmental study until almost a year after the plan was adopted. The study is expected to take two years. Until it’s done, construction can’t begin on the 150 units planned for MacArthur Field.
The misuse of this Los Angeles veterans’ facility is a symbol of how the VA mistreats the people they are meant to serve. Our new lawsuit aims to hold the VA accountable to the rule of law and to the veterans.
Obama’s EPA was notorious for overreach in the cause of global warming. When Congress didn’t approve Obama’s green agenda, his agencies, particularly the EPA, simply wrote and enforced their own laws in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
And the EPA came up with suspiciously convenient numbers to justify its power grabs. To expose this lawlessness, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the EPA for records about its claim that its Clean Power Plan would prevent thousands of premature deaths by 2030 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (No. 1:17-cv-01217)).
We filed in the lawsuit here in DC after the EPA failed to respond to our simple May 3 FOIA request for:
All internal emails or other records explaining, or requesting an explanation of, the EPA’s decision to claim that the Clean Power Plan would prevent between 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths by 2030.
Obama’s controversial Clean Power Plan, aimed at cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent by 2030, was touted by the Obama administration not only as a way to forestall global warming but also as a means of providing large health benefits to the American public. The plan, first proposed by the EPA in June 2014, was implemented through regulatory interpretation of the Clean Air Act after Congress refused in 2009 to enact cap-and-trade legislation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
By law, the EPA must conduct a cost-benefit analysis to accompany each new major regulation it promulgates. The cost-benefit analysis produced to justify the regulations underlying the Clean Power Plan claimed to prevent thousands of premature deaths each year as well as reducing serious health complications the agency associated with coal-fired generation plants. In an August 2015 press release announcing the Plan, then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy claimed: “By 2030, the net public health and climate-related benefits from the Clean Power Plan are estimated to be worth $45 billion every year.”
The regulatory plan, like the legislation Congress rejected, was promoted as combating “anthropogenic climate change” and was designed to mandate the shifting of electricity generation away from coal-powered plants. On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order directing the EPA to begin the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, halted construction of new plants, increased reliance on natural gas-fired plants and shifted power generation to huge new wind and solar farms. On June 1, President Trump also announced the United States would cease participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation.
One might think that if the numbers were valid, the agency would have no problem in explaining them. We suspect fraud “science” behind the Obama EPA’s claims in the Clean Power Plan. It’s a scheme to end coal energy under the guise of combatting alleged global warming. The Trump EPA can drain the swamp by releasing this Obama era EPA data immediately.
You’ll see below that the EPA swamp needs a lot of draining.
It is against the law for a federal agency to engage in covert activity intended to influence the American public. Would you be at all surprised that it happens anyway?
We just filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all records related to its use of the Thunderclap social media platform for illegal propaganda. We filed the lawsuit on June 21 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch vs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (No. 1:17-cv-01218)).
We went to court after the EPA failed to respond to another (see story above) simple request for:
All internal emails or other records concerning project administration, management, or assignment of tasks related to the EPA’s use of the Thunderclap social media platform.
A December 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded the EPA’s use of Thunderclap to send out messages boosting the Waters of the United States rule (also known as the Clean Water Rule) “constitutes covert propaganda” and violates the legal prohibition on propaganda by a federal agency.
The Clean Water Rule gives Washington extraordinary powers over streams and other small bodies of water. It was recently reported that the Trump administration is taking action to repeal it.
The GAO found that the EPA reached 1.8 million social media users through Thunderclap, which uses a synchronized social media blast to amplify a message on platforms such as Twitter:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated publicity or propaganda and anti-lobbying provisions contained in appropriations acts with its use of certain social media platforms in association with its “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rulemaking in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Specifically, EPA violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition though its use of a platform known as Thunderclap that allows a single message to be shared across multiple Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts at the same time. EPA engaged in covert propaganda when the agency did not identify EPA’s role as the creator of the Thunderclap message to the target audience.
The EPA said it sent the message through Thunderclap to clarify what it says was misinformation being spread about the Clean Water Rule. The GAO report, however, said the EPA failed to disclose it was the source of the Thunderclap message.
Federal agencies are permitted to promote polices, but are prohibited from engaging in propaganda, which is defined as covert activity intended to influence the American public. Agencies are also prohibited from using federal resources to conduct grassroots lobbying to prod the American public to call on Congress to act on pending legislation.
“EPA appealed to the public to contact Congress in opposition to pending legislation in violation of the grassroots lobbying prohibition,” the GAO said in its report.
The Obama EPA had a checkered history on transparency and accountability. We want the details on this sketchy effort to secretly peddle propaganda in an effort to protect its regulatory power grab. Again, let’s hope the Trump administration reforms the EPA enough to at least get it to start following the transparency laws.
Do you wonder why it’s so hard for your representatives in Congress to find a way to keep their promise to repeal Obamacare, which has proved a disaster for hundreds of thousands of Americans? Perhaps it’s because they have a sweetheart deal they don’t want to lose.
Judicial Watch previously uncovered false applications filed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate with the D.C. Exchange Authority showing that the House and Senate claimed to have only 45 employees each. They also show that the House and Senate attested to having “50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.” Congress employs upwards of 20,000 people. The applications also falsely state that the House and Senate are “local/state governments.”
We are also leading the challenge to the unlawful Obamacare subsidies for Congress through a taxpayer lawsuit against the DC government agency that is helping Congress violate the law. The case is currently before the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Now we are officially requesting that the Trump administration stop members of Congress and their staffs from unlawfully purchasing, with taxpayer subsidies, health insurance through the District of Columbia’s small business exchange. We made our request on June 14, 2017, to the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) as part of a process set out by the Department of Health and Human Services to reform the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.
The ACA requires states to create at least two exchanges: a small business exchange (referred to as “SHOP” in the ACA) and an individual exchange. It also requires certain members of Congress and congressional employees to purchase insurance on an exchange created either by their state of residence (or by the District, if they are a D.C. resident) or by the federal government, if their state of residence did not establish an exchange. 42 U.S.C. § 18032(d)(3)(D)(i). Because the ACA limits the purchase of insurance on a small business exchange to employees of small businesses – and Congress is not a small business – the ACA unequivocally requires that certain members of Congress and congressional employees purchase insurance on an individual exchange created either by their state of residence (or by the District, if they are a D.C. resident) or by the federal government for that state.
Nonetheless, OPM promulgated 5 C.F.R. § 890.102(c)(9), which purportedly authorized congressional employees to purchase health insurance offered by an appropriate small business exchange, and the OPM Director subsequently issued guidance stating, “OPM has determined that the DC SHOP . . . is the appropriate SHOP from which Members of Congress and designated congressional staff will purchase health insurance in order to receive a Government contribution.” Federal Employees Health Benefits Program: Members of Congress and Congressional Staff, 78 Fed. Reg. 60653, 60654 (Oct. 2, 2013).
Similarly, CMS issued guidance stating, “Consistent with the OPM rule, this guidance clarifies that offices of the Members of Congress are considered qualified employers eligible to offer coverage to Members and designated Congressional staff through the appropriate SHOP as determined by OPM. CMS clarifies that offices of the Members of Congress, as qualified employers, are eligible to participate in a SHOP regardless of the size and offering requirements set forth in the definition of “qualified employer” in the Exchange final rule, provided that the office offers coverage to those full-time employees who are determined by statute to purchase health insurance from an Exchange for the purpose of the government contribution.” CMS, Affordable Insurance Exchanges Guidance (September 30, 2013, available at [URL REMOVED].
Because certain members of Congress and congressional employees are enrolled in a small business exchange, the government is contributing monies contrary to the ACA. If OPM’s and CMS’s regulation and guidance were revoked, the government would save monies being expended unlawfully to provide contributions to the approximately 20,000 members of Congress and congressional employees. In addition, the rule of law will be enforced.
Congress is violating Obamacare to get taxpayers to pay for its health insurance. If the Trump administration required Congress to follow the law, taxpayers would be saving money, pure and simple. We hope the Trump administration will end this clear violation of law by Congress.
Our Founding Fathers gave us a republican form of government designed to make sure no one is above the law. It is a stain the system bequeathed to us that one of the three branches is breaking the Obamacare law that every other citizen must follow.
I respectfully suggest you celebrate Independence Day by reaching out to the White House to let the Trump administration know your views on Congress’s Obamacare exemption.
And, of course, best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful Independence Day!
Until next week …