New Lawsuit on Fast and Furious
Judicial Watch Continues Legal Fight for Pennsylvania Voter ID Law
Here’s one key lesson I’ve learned over my last 14 years at Judicial Watch: Never underestimate the persistence of the political left (or its vast resources). Liberals will fight and scrap to the very last breath to advance their extremist agenda. Look no further than their efforts to block the enforcement of a new voter ID law in Pennsylvania.
As I told you just a few weeks ago, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the new voter ID law in Pennsylvania is consistent with the rule of law. It was a clear-cut victory for election integrity. Unfortunately, the leftists challenging the voter ID law refuse to go down without a fight, so the battle continues now in that state’s highest court. And JW remains in the middle of all of the action.
Last week we filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in support of Act 18, which simply requires voters to produce a Pennsylvania driver’s license or another government-issued photo ID, such as a U.S. passport, military ID, or county/municipal employee ID when voting.
Judicial Watch filed its brief on behalf of Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the driving force behind the legislation, and members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives who supported the bill. The brief was filed on September 6, 2012, and the court heard arguments on the matter yesterday, September 13, 2012.
According to Judicial Watch’s brief, filed jointly with Pennsylvania attorney L. Theodore Hoppe Jr., the Pennsylvania voter ID law is consistent with the Pennsylvania Constitution:
[Our] position is simple and straightforward. While the Pennsylvania Constitution requires elections to be free and equal, it does not provide the framework for how to secure this…In passing Act 18, the General Assembly did no more than exercise its sound discretion and create a commonsense regulatory scheme to secure free and equal elections. The General Assembly undoubtedly had such authority and used it accordingly…
…In using its authority, [the General Assembly] has not caused anyone to be disenfranchised. Nor has it changed the qualifications set forth in the Pennsylvania Constitution. Rather it has maintained and promoted free and equal elections. For these reasons, the Commonwealth Court correctly concluded that Act 18 should not be preliminarily enjoined.
Now, liberals play the race card by speculating that such voter ID provisions disenfranchise prospective minority and low income voters. But the whole “disenfranchisement” argument falls on its face if one bothers to read the provisions of the legislation in Pennsylvania.
Act 18 (formerly HB 934) requires the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to provide valid identification at no cost. The law further allows an individual without identification to cast a “provisional” ballot that will be counted if the identity of the voter can be indisputably ascertained within six business days of the election. (Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed the legislation into law on March 14, 2012.)
So how does the left explain how prospective voters are actually harmed by this law? They can’t. So instead they make emotional appeals to the court that have nothing to do with the rule of law. Thankfully, the presiding judge in the lower court, Judge Robert Simpson, wasn’t buying it. Per his August 15, 2012, ruling: “At the end of the day…I do not have the luxury of deciding this issue based on my sympathy for the witnesses or my esteem for counsel. Rather, I must analyze the law, and apply it to the evidence of facial unconstitutionality brought forth in the courtroom, tested by our adversarial system.”
So the rule of law won out over empathy in the Commonwealth court. Let’s hope the same is true at the state’s highest court.
As Pennsylvania State Representative Daryl Metcalfe said in a statement accompanying our brief, this is an important battle: “The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights of American citizenship. Voter photo identification is a commonsense safeguard that will ensure that each legally cast vote is protected and not canceled out by the forces of corruption.”
We are honored to join Rep. Metcalfe and his fellow Pennsylvania legislators to support Pennsylvania’s common sense voter ID law. The citizens of Pennsylvania must have confidence in the integrity of the voting process on Election Day. Our entire system of democracy depends on it.
That’s why we’ve been involved in the battle over Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law from the start.
JW Attorney Michael Bekesha testified on March 21, 2011, before the State Government Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that the bill was a good way for Pennsylvania “to ensure fair elections for its citizens.” On July 17, 2012, Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae brief with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on behalf of Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe and 49 members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives who supported the bill. Nearly half of the members who supported the bill were signed on to Judicial Watch’s initial amicus.
So the good news is that the Left has nothing on Judicial Watch in terms of persistence! Stay tuned.
Congressional Candidate Nabbed in Voter Fraud Scandal
The left and its echo chamber in the major media have been shouting from the rooftops that the election fraud issue is overblown. But that’s an awfully difficult argument to make now that a congressional Democratic candidate has been nailed for casting fraudulent votes!
The Washington Post had the story:
A Maryland Democratic candidate quit her congressional race Monday after her own party told state officials that she had committed fraud by voting in both Maryland and Florida in recent elections. Wendy Rosen, a small-business owner running against freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R) in the Eastern Shore-based 1st Congressional District, released a statement saying that “with great regret, and much sorrow” she was resigning from the contest.
“Personal issues have made this the hardest decision that I have had to make,” Rosen said. Rosen’s announcement came the same day the state Democratic party released a letter to state Attorney General Douglas Gansler and state prosecutors reporting the allegations against Rosen.
“The Maryland Democratic Party has discovered that Ms. Rosen has been registered to vote in both Florida and Maryland since at least 2006; that she in fact voted in the 2006 general election both in Florida and Maryland; and that she voted in the presidential preference primaries held in both Florida and Maryland in 2008,” wrote Yvette Lewis, the state party chair. “This information is based on an examination of the voter files from both states. We believe that this is a clear violation of Maryland law and urge the appropriate office to conduct a full investigation.”
So there you have it. Voter fraud from a major party’s candidate for the House of Representatives! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Election fraud is not a theoretical problem. It is very real and it is the reason election integrity is a major Judicial Watch priority.
Our leadership in the area is being recognized by the both the left generally and the media. Your Judicial Watch is under attack from the left for our leadership role in helping enforce the law that ensures cleaner election rolls. The media is taking notice, too. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ran a major story highlighting Judicial Watch’s work in examining suspect election rolls in Pennsylvania. You can read that story here. Our work was also highlighted in the lead story in Monday’s New York Times newspaper:
Judicial Watch, a conservative organization aimed at reducing voter fraud, says it has found that voter rolls last year in 12 states seemed to contain an ineligible number of voting-age residents when compared with 2010 census data. It is suing both Indiana and Ohio for failing to clean up their rolls in keeping with their obligations under the National Voter Registration Act.
“Ohio is a real mess,” Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, said in explaining why his group was suing the state to clean up its voting rolls. “It has terrible maintenance procedures. If the results are close there, both sides are going to be screaming about it.”
And the Washington Post allowed us to get the truth out about voter ID requirements and the increasing acceptance of voter IDs across the nation.
Stay tuned to NBC’s network news programs this weekend, as I’m scheduled to appear in a story on the intensifying election integrity event. This recognition of our leadership role is a testament, of course, to the commitment and backing of you and other Judicial Watch supporters.
JW Sues Department of Justice for ‘Fast and Furious’ Documents Shielded from Congress by Executive Privilege
What is President Obama hiding? That’s the question at the center of a Judicial Watch lawsuit filed this week. Just like Congress, JW has been aggressively pursuing Operation Fast and Furious records first withheld by the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) and then subsequently shielded from disclosure by the President himself when he inappropriately invoked executive privilege to keep them secret.
Here’s what we’re after pursuant to a June 22, 2012, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed with the Office of Information Policy (OIP), a component of the DOJ:
All records subject to the claim of executive privilege invoked by President Barack Obama on or about June 20, 2012, as referenced in the letter of Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole to the Honorable Darrell E. Issa, Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives, dated June 20, 2012. More specifically, the records requested herein are those records described by Deputy Attorney General Cole in his June 20, 2012 letter as “the relevant post-February, 2011, documents” over which “the President has asserted executive privilege.”
As per usual, we’re getting the runaround.
On August 6, 2012, OIP informed Judicial Watch that the Offices of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General had determined that the documents responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request should be withheld in full, pursuant to FOIA Exemption 5 that protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.” We appealed the determination. By law, a response was due September 11, 2012. However, as of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, the DOJ had failed to respond.
Now we’re in court, doing whatever we can to shed light on who was responsible for Fast and Furious, why it was initiated, and how it could go so terribly wrong.
By way of review, Fast and Furious is the DOJ/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gun-running” operation in which the Obama administration reportedly sold guns to Mexican drug cartels in hopes that they would end up at crime scenes.
And what was the point of that? It appears the Obama administration needed more ammunition to push for stricter gun control laws and figured if it could demonstrate that crimes in Mexico were being carried out with weapons purchased in the U.S. that would do the trick.
To say this is an outrage – to allow guns to “walk” into the hands of Mexican drug criminals in order to stick it to the gun lobby – doesn’t come close to describing the despicable nature of this scheme.
Fast and Furious remained a dirty Obama administration secret until December 2010. That’s when Fast and Furious weapons were found at the crime scene where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered. The incident led to a barrage of press coverage and pressure on the Obama administration to explain itself. Answers, unfortunately, have been in short supply. The Obama DOJ initially lied about the scandal and has never provided a full accounting of how specific actions taken by ATF led directly to the death of at least one American law enforcement agent and countless Mexicans. (As Eric Holder himself noted in testimony before Congress, there’s no telling how many people will ultimately die due to Fast and Furious.)
Congressional investigators, led by Rep. Darryl Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, have been fighting to secure records related to the Fast and Furious program, only to be stonewalled by the DOJ. The fact that the DOJ fought tooth-and-nail to protect these documents was not at all surprising, given the Obama administration’s horrible record on transparency.
But then, just hours before Rep. Issa’s committee was to vote to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress for ignoring subpoenas related to the scandal, something extraordinary happened.
On June 20, 2012, President Obama made a highly controversial decision to assert Executive Privilege to shield the DoJ’s Fast and Furious records from disclosure. Executive privilege is typically reserved to “protect” White House records, not the records of federal agencies, which must be made available, subject to specific exceptions, under the FOIA.
The president’s assertion of executive privilege has thus far kept these Fast and Furious records secret, but it did not prevent Congress from voting on the contempt citation. On June 28, 2012, Congress voted 255-67 to hold Holder in contempt. (A number of Democrats joined the vote, while other Democrats, endorsing lawlessness, walked out in protest.) A second vote, 258-95, authorized the pursuit of records through civil litigation in the courts.
It certainly appears that the president improperly invoked executive privilege to cover-up the Fast and Furious scandal and to protect his corrupt Attorney General from further harm and embarrassment – and prosecution. It should go without saying that the Obama administration must come clean and complete the public record on one of the most egregious violations of public trust in modern political history. But, then again, the importance of FOIA law seems completely lost on the “most transparent presidential administration in history.”
And so we continue to fight. As I told Politico, I suspect we will get the information before Congress does:
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Thursday that the group’s suit could have some benefit even before or without any actual records becoming public.
“Despite a contempt resolution being passed and the [House] litigation, the administration has refused to disclose exactly what they’re withholding and why,” Fitton said in an interview. “We think a FOIA lawsuit is a simple, direct way to get a handle on what’s being withheld and why and provides a good vehicle to challenge withholdings, if they are improper, as we suspect they are.”
In addition to this most recent FOIA lawsuit, Judicial Watch separately filed a FOIA lawsuit against the ATF seeking access to records detailing communications between ATF officials and a White House official regarding Fast and Furious.
By the way, I go into some detail on the Fast and Furious scandal in my new New York Times best-selling book The Corruption Chronicles. Please help us get the news out about the Obama administration’s corrupt dealings. Purchase your copy today. And if you already have one on the shelf, buy another for a loved one!
Until next week…