Written by Tom Fitton
In addition to the long list of scandals and abuses of power:
The election is long over. The inauguration party favors have been packed away. And a new Congress is now in place. So it’s time to get back to work addressing the serious scandals and abuses of power that have led to such widespread concern amongst the American people that our government is off the rails and out of control.
With this in mind, Judicial Watch today released its list of investigative priorities for the 113th Congress. This agenda, which is being independently pursued by Judicial Watch, is a wide-ranging catalog of waste, fraud and abuse by the Obama administration. The investigative priorities include:
Rule by Executive Fiat: President Obama’s decision to bypass Congress, often contrary to the U.S. Constitution, and implement his agenda via executive fiat on a wide range of issues from undermining the Second Amendment to rewriting immigration law, to controlling free speech on the Internet.
Benghazi-gate: The Obama administration’s attempts to deceive the American people regarding the terrorist connection to the murder of four Americans, including a U.S. Ambassador, at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi; the decision by the State Department to deny support for U.S. forces during the attack and the Obama administration’s refusal to bolster security at the consulate in the lead up to the anniversary of 9/11.
Bin Laden Raid Leaks and Secrets: The Obama Department of Defense’s (DOD) decision to leak classified details at the behest of the Obama White House to the filmmakers behind Zero Dark Thirty, a Hollywood film detailing the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden; the refusal of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the leaks despite a criminal referral from the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General; the leaking of the names of military operatives involved in the raid by DOD Undersecretary Mike Vickers; the connection of John Brennan, Obama’s pick to head the CIA, to the leaks; the decision by the Obama DOD to withhold from the American people the videos and photos detailing the raid.
Election Fraud: The DOJ’s refusal to enforce provisions of the National Voter Registration Act, that requires states to maintain clean voter registration lists; DOJ’s campaign to threaten, intimidate and sue states that attempt to implement election integrity provisions consistent with the law, such as voter ID laws; DOJ’s collusion with radical leftist and corrupt special interest groups such as Project Vote and other ACORN-connected groups.
Threats to Second Amendment Protections: The Obama administration’s closed-door discussions with anti-gun activists designed to craft policies that restrict gun ownership and undermine the Second Amendment, including new policies that would seek to pressure businesses to toe the administration’s gun agenda; policy recommendations that “suggest” doctors ask patients about gun ownership; efforts to compile federal registries on gun ownership; and efforts to use EPA regulations to restrict gun ownership.
Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s highly controversial June 20, 2012, assertion of “executive privilege” to protect Attorney General Eric Holder from being prosecuted for failing to provide Congress with documents pertaining to the Obama administration’s deadly gunrunning operation known as Operation Fast and Furious; Obama’s invocation of executive privilege moves the legal and political questions surrounding the deaths of more than 300 Mexicans directly into the Oval Office; efforts by the Holder DOJ and top Justice officials to conceal their knowledge and participation in the Fast and Furious scandal and to escape accountability while blaming the scandal on low level officials.
Ongoing Government Bailouts: The government’s continued control of private sector institutions through bailouts of private financial institutions; government decisions regarding the ongoing Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailouts; the role of the Federal Reserve in supporting European Union bailouts and the continued financing of our nation’s public debt; and the government takeover of the American automotive industry.
Green Energy Boondoggles: The Obama Department of Energy’s decision to funnel $16.4 billion to “green energy” companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers; the half-a-billion taxpayer dollars given to the now-bankrupt Solyndra, a green energy boondoggle financially backed by Tulsa billionaire Georg Kaiser, an Obama campaign fundraiser; the decision by the Obama White House to fast-track the Solyndra loan through the approval process; bailouts given to other failing “green pork” companies, such as Fisker Automotive, Ener1, Abound Solar, and Beacon Power.
Illegal Immigration: The President’s amnesty scheme for illegal aliens imposed via executive fiat; deteriorating security on the nation’s border with Mexico; the Obama administration’s unwillingness to enforce federal immigration laws and attacks against states attempting to confront the illegal immigration crisis.
National Security: Unanswered questions concerning the relationship of the FBI and CIA to American-born militant Imam Anwar al-Aulaqi and his assassination per the order of Barack Obama in 2011; the Obama administration’s determined efforts to censor speech about the threat of radical Islam.
Obama Czars: Barack Obama’s repeated attempts to bypass the “advice and consent” authority of the U.S. Senate and appoint unaccountable and corrupt czars to control major aspects of government policy and programs outside of the reach of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); the decision by Obama to improperly employ a controversialrecess appointment to install radical leftist Richard Cordray at the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau(CFPB) after the Senate had blocked his nomination; Obama’s decision to use recess appointments to appoint three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a move which exceeded his constitutional authority per a recent appeals court ruling.
Obamacare: Obamacare’s mandate to evaluate medical treatments based solely on cost; the Obama administration’s secrecy regarding the distribution of Obamacare waivers; the Obama administration’s use of taxpayer dollars to produce and distribute Obamacare propaganda; and the regulation and funding of Obamacare in general.
Unprecedented Secrecy: The Obama administration’s withholding of records pertaining to Obamacare to the continued funding of the criminal ACORN network; from tracking Wall Street bailout money to the unconstitutional use of czars; to withholding the Secret Service’s White House visitor logs; to the attacks on the integrity of our nation’s elections. (Judicial Watch has had to file almost 1,000 FOIA requests and nearly 100 FOIA lawsuits against the Obama administration.)
You will recall that Judicial Watch, in partnership with Breitbart.com, commissioned an election night survey of voters. According to the results, corruption in the federal government is a serious concern among voters, with 85% saying they are “concerned” and 53% saying they are “very concerned.”
So this was the only bipartisan mandate handed to Congress and the president on Election Day 2012 – to clean up corruption and restore the rule of law to Washington. President Obama has presided over the greatest expansion of government power in modern history and most of this activity has largely escaped serious congressional oversight.
Judicial Watch is doing its part to fill in the oversight gap, but it is well past time for Congress to help pry loose information from the Obama administration, which has proven to be both highly secretive and corrupt.
In January, Judicial Watch announced that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) had made its list of Washington’s “Ten Most Corrupt” politicians for 2012. And what were the senator’s transgressions?
You can read his entry for yourself, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version: Senator Menendez was previously investigated for steering lobbying business to his former chief of staff (and girlfriend); he helped sneak an $8 million earmark for a public walkway and park that benefitted campaign donors and a former senior aide; and then late last year he was alleged to have patronized under-aged prostitutes and to have employed an illegal alien sex offender on his staff.
So is he a deserving member of our Ten Most Wanted? You bet. And that was BEFORE news hit this week of yet another influence peddling scandal (related to, of course, the sex scandal) involving the beleaguered New Jersey Democrat.
The Washington Post details the story:
Sen. Robert Menendez raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor — had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday.
Menendez (D-N.J.) initially contacted federal officials in 2009 about the government’s audit of Salomon Melgen, complaining to the director overseeing Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor because the billing rules were ambiguous, the aides said.
According to the Post, these are far from fresh allegations against Melgen. He has been under investigation by federal authorities and health care auditors multiple times over the last decade for allegations involving health care fraud.
(For a detailed account of how Melgen allegedly cheated the system, check out this New York Times summary, which tells the story in great detail.)
Of course Menendez claims he knew nothing about the controversy swirling around “his friend and political supporter” until Melgen’s office and home were raided by authorities earlier this month – a claim that is nearly impossible to believe considering their close connection and Menendez’s history.
Overall, the Post notes, Melgen donated $700,000 to Menendez’s campaign and to other Democrat candidates – and that was just last year alone.
It appears Melgen’s generosity was not limited to cash contributions. The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating two trips Menendez took on the doctor’s private jet to his “seaside mansion” in the Dominican Republic. Menendez has already admitted he did not properly disclose these trips on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms and was forced to reimburse Melgen $58,500. (Menendez “came clean” only after the New Jersey Republican Party had filed a complaint, calling attention to the trips.)
It certainly appears this was a clear quid pro quo. Melgen filled Menendez’s coffers and courted his support during expensive first class trips to the Dominican Republic and Menendez tried to help him out of a health care fraud scandal in return. And it will come as no surprise to students of Clinton corruption that Melgen is close to the Clinton machine.
But there is more to this story.
According to The New York Times Menendez also lobbied federal officials in yet another situation that would have benefitted Melgen financially. “Two years ago, Dr. Melgen bought an ownership interest in a company that had a long-dormant contract with the Dominican Republic to provide port security. Mr. Menendez, who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee that holds sway over the Dominican Republic, subsequently urged officials in the State and Commerce Departments to intervene so the contract would be enforced, at an estimated value of $500 million.”
The Times also reports that “A top executive at Dr. Melgen’s security company will be Pedro Pablo Permuy, a former national security adviser and senior legislative aide to Mr. Menendez.”
The more threads you pull on all of this, the worse it looks for Menendez.
As it stands today, Menendez claims he’s squeaky clean, the victim of “right wing bloggers.” (Will liberals ever let go of the “vast right wing conspiracy” claim?) But we are beginning to see cracks in the foundation of support among Democrats as well. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered support for Menendez in public statements – but they were tepid at best: “I have confidence he did nothing wrong, but that’s what investigations are all about,” said Reid.
By the way, the Menendez scandal was not broken by the Big Media or by federal investigators: it all got rolling because of reporting by a young investigative journalist, Matthew Boyle, last year for The Daily Caller. Matt now writes for Breitbart.com and talked about this story at a Judicial Watch panel discussion earlier this year. I’m also proud to say that Matt is one of the stars of Judicial Watch’s movie The District of Corruption, which will be widely available later this year.
In the meantime, Senator Menendez continues to take the lead on developing amnesty legislation for President Obama. This helps place into context why our system is so broken. Our nation’s top legislators are corrupt, and yet they seek to take the lead on key rule of law issues, such as immigration. Our republican form of government is harmed when we have lawbreakers writing our laws.
A federal court issued a decision recently that has massive implications for some of Barack Obama’s radical czars, who were installed into positions of power without the consent of the U.S. Senate as required by the Constitution. Score one for the “Separation of Powers” doctrine!
As reported by The Washington Post:
President Obama exceeded his constitutional authority by making appointments when the Senate was on a break last year, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. The court’s broad ruling would sharply limit the power that presidents throughout history have used to make recess appointments in the face of Senate opposition and inaction.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit flatly rejected the Obama administration’s rationale for appointing three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was on a holiday break.
Chief Judge David B. Sentelle sharply criticized the administration’s interpretation of when recess appointments may be made, saying it would give the president “free rein to appoint his desired nominees at any time he pleases, whether that time be a weekend, lunch, or even when the Senate is in session and he is merely displeased with its inaction.” He added, “This cannot be the law.”
The Post notes that due to a number of other similar lawsuits winding their way through the courts, this case is likely to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. But for now, the court has ruled that the appointments are illicit. You can review the full decision here.
The ruling is an extraordinary slap down of President Obama’s power grab. Next time you hear a liberal tell you that President Obama is a moderate or “pragmatic,” recall the appellate panel’s analysis of Obama legal justification for appointing these czars without the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate – Obama’s legal arguments “would demolish the checks and balances inherent in the advice-and-consent requirement.”
And so, what is to happen with the dozens of decisions made by the NLRB over the last year, in which the three unlawful appointees participated? As I’ve noted in this space, President Obama has used the NLRB as a battering ram for Big Labor at the expense of the private sector and the rule of law. These decisions are now surely open to court challenge. In the meantime, Obama’s pretenders at the NRLB will continue to make decisions despite the court ruling, which will only lead to more court challenges and constitutional crises.
The ruling most surely applies to the appointment of one of President Obama’s most controversial czars, Richard Cordray, who heads up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Cordray, you may recall, succeeded Elizabeth Warren when she left to enter the Senate race in Massachusetts. He, like the NLRB appointees, was the recipient of an Obama “recess” appointment and is therefore serving unlawfully.
(President Obama resorted to abusing the recess appointment process to install Cordray because Senate Republicans objected to Cordray’s penchant for anti-business zealotry. JW further noted at the time of the appointment that when Cordray served as Ohio Attorney General, he allowed Ohio state officials to rifle through the personal files of JW client Joe Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. “Joe the Plumber,” without accountability. The three Ohio officials, reportedly Obama campaign supporters all – attempted to smear Joe for daring to question then-candidate Barack Obama on his tax policies during a campaign stop.)
So if the NLRB appointments were unlawful – and they were – so too was the Cordray appointment. And now all of the agency’s decisions over the last year are cast into doubt: “The work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could also be in jeopardy because the law requires the agency to have a director in place before it can exercise its power to write regulations and enforce them,” The Washington Post noted. Sure enough, we had already uncovered documents showing that Richard Cordray doubted the constitutionality of his own appointment!
Of course, this mess could have all been avoided if Obama simply followed his constitutional oath and issued his appointments with the “advice and consent” of the U.S. Senate.
But instead, pretending to be frustrated that his fanatical czars were being “blocked” by Senate Republicans, Obama acted unilaterally and beyond the powers given to him by the U.S. Constitution.
The Constitution allows the president to issue appointments when the U.S. Senate is in recess. But during the time that Obama made his NLRB and CFPB appointments, the Senate continued to hold pro-forma sessions. They were on a break, not a recess. Judge Sentelle summed it up nicely: Barack Obama does not have the power and authority to decide whether or not the Senate is in session.
Judicial Watch has been all over the president’s unconstitutional appointments. We produced the most comprehensive review of all of the Obama administration’s czars and have educated Americans on the president’s abuses of power. We are thrilled that a court has seen past the president’s schemes and has upheld a key constitutional provision for the balance of power.
Until next week
Tom Fitton, President
Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation's public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people.
Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach