Written by Tom Fitton
Federalism Victory at the High Court, Stealing Democracy and Your Confidential Credit Card Data
This week brought with it a crushing blow to liberals who delight in using the federal government to hammer states that want to protect the integrity of electoral process under the guise of “racial equality.” As reported by The Washington Times:
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that states no longer can be judged by voting discrimination that went on decades ago, a decision that argues the country has fundamentally changed since the racially motivated laws of the civil rights era.
In a 5-4 ruling, the justices said the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that mainly Southern states must undergo special scrutiny before changing their voting laws is based on a 40-year-old formula that is no longer relevant to changing racial circumstances.
“Congress — if it is to divide the states — must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions. It cannot rely simply on the past,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, which was comprised of the court’s conservative-leaning justices.
So, what this ruling means is that liberals will not be able to arbitrarily use the hand of Big Government to control how a state conducts its electoral process. If there’s a charge of discrimination, they’re actually going to have to prove it. There’s nothing liberals hate more than having to provide hard data to support their policies. And that’s why the reaction to the decision from the Left was so heated.
One liberal Congressman immediately “went there” in his reactionary criticism of the decision. Via his Twitter account, Rep. Ryan Thomas used a racial epithet to describe Justice Clarence Thomas who sided with the Majority: “four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas,” he Tweeted. The DNC quickly fired off a fundraising letter, asking supporters to help the organization target Republican candidates sympathetic with the High Court’s view.
And what about Barack Obama, who was almost certainly the beneficiary of the federal government’s heavy-handed and abusive intrusion into the state electoral process?
The president said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, but then signaled the battle is far from over. “My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process,” he promised.
Did you catch that spin? “Fair and equal,” he said. Well, we know what the president means by that. We saw it in full display in the 2012 election cycle. The president’s idea of “fair and equal” is to “game the system” so that ineligible voters, including noncitizens, can cast votes. More than one vote? All the better.
And here’s how they did it.
First, the Department of Justice (DOJ) bullied states to enforce a provision of the National Voter Registration Act in order to register as many voters receiving public assistance as possible. Then the DOJ ignored provisions of the very same law requiring states to maintain clean voter registration lists.
When states tried to implement sensible voter integrity measures, such as Voter ID laws, the DOJ and its radical leftist allies (see the ACLU and the ACORN-connected Project Vote), took actions to stop them.
This strategy was a particularly effective against states that had been under the federal government’s watch for alleged discriminatory behavior decades ago. The same states that are now freed up by this decision.
As you know, Judicial Watch is a leading force in countering this leftist scheme to corrupt the voting process through its ongoing “Election Integrity Project.” During the last election cycle JW conducted a thorough analysis of the states with the dirtiest voter registration lists and told them to clean them up or face a lawsuit. (Some election officials did the right thing. Others got sued.)
We also came to the aid of states (like Florida and Pennsylvania) which were under attack by the Holder DOJ over their voter integrity measures.
And despite the long odds and a persistent and well-funded opposition, we scored some key victories along the way. Now, as the impact of this Supreme Court decision continues to ripple across the country those victories will hopefully be easier to come by.
As noted by PJ Media, the ink had barely dried on the court’s opinion before the State of Texas took immediate action: “Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott responded to today’s Supreme Court decision striking down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act by implementing Texas’ voter ID law. The Texas legislature had passed that law in 2011, only to have the Obama-Holder DOJ put it on ice while challenging it under the Voting Rights Act.”
The Texas Attorney General put the High Court decision in its proper perspective.
“This is a huge win for the Constitution and for equality in this country,” Abbott said. “Before today, different states were treated differently under the Constitution. The Voting Rights Act is the only law that was used to impose disparate or different kinds of treatment. Specifically, Texas was called out and treated differently than other states.”
As Barack Obama himself stated, “this is far from over.” The Left did not allow the rule of law to stop them from trying to steal elections, so do you think they’re going to let a “little thing” like a Supreme Court decision derail their feverish pursuit of power and racialist politics? Not a chance.
Liberals are committed to undermining the integrity of the election process. And JW is committed to confronting them every step of the way. If you think this campaign is as important as we do, then please consider making a secure, tax-deductible contribution by clicking here.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news at the Supreme Court this week. Read on…
In another pair of High Court rulings that will ripple across the country, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed in bipartisan fashion (454-81) seventeen years ago and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. In a separate ruling the Court left in place a lower court decision that struck down California’s Proposition 8, which states that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Time Magazine characterized the twin decisions as “the fastest civil rights shifts in the nation’s history.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the DOMA case, siding with the liberal judicial activist block of the Court (Justices Ginsberg, Kagan, Sotomayor and Breyer). As of now, twelve states and the District of Columbia have redefined marriage to include same sex couples.
A divided U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal law that defines marriage as a heterosexual union, saying it violates the rights of married gay couples by denying them government benefits.
The vote on the Defense of Marriage Act was 5-4. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four Democratic-appointed justices in the majority.
The law “places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage,” Kennedy wrote for the court. “The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, and whose relationship the state has sought to dignify.”
Justice Scalia pointed to the Court’s overreach in issuing this decision in his dissent: “We have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation,” Scalia wrote. (Emphasizing the strength of his opposition, Scalia read his dissent from the bench.) Justice Kennedy’s opinion attacking traditional marriage proponents is bereft of any cogent constitutional analysis – it is an example of pure outcome-based judicial decision-making. Remember Obama’s “empathy” standard for selecting judges? Lawless decisions such as Kennedy’s (with the support of Obama’s two liberal appointments) are the result.
In a separate dissent, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the federal government did not violate the Constitution by defining marriage. “It leaves the choice to the people, acting through their elected representatives at both the federal and state levels…the Constitution does not guarantee the right to enter into a same-sex marriage. Indeed, no provision of the Constitution speaks to the issue.”
So what does this mean?
The Court’s decision now paves the way for homosexual couples to receive some 1,100 federal benefits afforded to married couples. The more than 100,000 gays and lesbians who are legally married gain instant access to the pension rights and other benefits that are available to other married couples. That number will skyrocket. The good news is, for now, that states can still can protect traditional marriage. But Kennedy’s politicized finding that the defense of traditional marriage is necessarily irrational and based on animus to homosexuals does not augur well for traditional marriage when additional challenges to its protection come before the Court.
In a second decision, the Supreme Court also voted 5-4 (same divisions) that it did not have jurisdiction to hear a separate case involving California’s Proposition 8. The decision left in place a San Francisco federal district court ruling that overturned the law. It is still not clear whether that district court ruling would invalidate Prop 8 for the entire state but liberal Governor Jerry Brown is interpreting it that way and is set to ram same sex marriage through the California system state-wide.
As you may recall, Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the popular vote. However, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and current Governor Jerry Brown (oath-breakers both) refused to defend the proposition in court when facing a legal challenge.
As you know, if you’ve been reading this column for a while, Judicial Watch was very active in this high stakes debate over Proposition 8, attempting to defend the traditional view of marriage, in place for all of human history, as well as the right of California citizens to defend their law.
[A]mici are concerned that the Ninth Circuit has unlawfully limited the right of the people and states to self-governance, and are concerned about the effect of that decision on American democracy. Among the harms caused by the Ninth Circuit’s decision are: a dangerous erosion of the principles of federalism; an anti-democratic limitation on the people’s right to popular initiative and referendum; and a drastic revision of the concept of “rational basis” in Equal Protection analysis.
(“Rational basis” is the concept that a law is valid if a legislature has a legitimate interest in enacting a statute.)
This all ended up at the Supreme Court as a result of blatant judicial activism and political cowardice.
In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that same-sex couples had the right to marry, leading to approximately 18,000 same-sex marriages over the next five months. (In its amicus curiae brief with the Court, Judicial Watch asked the Court to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, stating that “judges are not free to rewrite statutes to say what they would like or what they believe to be better social policy.”)
On Election Day 2008, 52% of voters in California elected to change the California State constitution to state that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The proposition led to a number of lawsuits challenging the proposition. In one lawsuit (Strauss v. Horton), the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, but allowed existing same sex marriages to stand. (California officials refused to defend Prop 8, leaving it to the referendum’s proponents to seek the standing to protect it.)
On August 4, 2010, District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8 violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Judge Walker’s ruling was controversial for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he failed to disclose that he had been in a homosexual relationship for ten years prior to registering his ruling on Proposition 8 and therefore had a conflict of interest.)
But now the Supreme Court has effectively endorsed the idea that politicians, by simply refusing to enforce or defend them in court, can overturn laws passed by the people through the initiative process. Sadly, “conservative” jurists Chief Justice Roberts and Scalia signed on to this assault on self-governance.
The fight to protect the institution of marriage will go on. But this decision certainly makes it a much tougher climb. Many of our conservative friends say best protection would be a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and woman. Traditional marriage is still the law of the land in many states and an effort to upend in liberal-controlled Illinois failed spectacularly last month.
As with many of the problems we currently face here in Washington, a significant part of the blame for how this all unfolded must be laid at the feet of Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. In 2011, the pair violated their oaths and abandoned the government’s defense of DOMA. And we are reaping the negative impact of this corrupt decision now.
The American people lost in the marriage cases before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s decisions are political power grabs that undermine the very notion of self-governance and the rule of law. Today, the judicial activism of the Supreme Court undermined the confidence of millions of Americans that it can fairly apply the law on controversial social issues.
Authoritarian liberals, such as Barack Obama, believe that democratic debate about public policy should end when they win elections or court decisions. But the American people, following the Constitution, should have the final say so that the defense of traditional marriage will continue.
Much has been made in the news of Eric Snowden’s “disclosures,” which revealed a widespread data collection operation taking place inside the Obama administration.
As I write this Weekly Update, Snowden is currently sequestered somewhere in a Russian airport evading U.S. authorities who desperately want him (and his files) under lock and key.
Judicial Watch follows the law to get to the truth about what your government is up to. And we obtained information about the activities of a new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), that is every bit as alarming as anything disclosed by the fugitive Snowden.
According to records we forced out of the CFPB, the agency has spent millions of dollars for the warrantless collection and analysis of Americans’ financial transactions. The documents also reveal that CFPB contractors may be required to share the information with “additional government entities.”
We got the records pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on April 24, 2013, following the April 23 Senate Banking Committee testimony of CFPB Director Richard Cordray. The documents uncovered by Judicial Watch include:
Overlapping contracts with multiple credit reporting agencies and accounting firms to gather, store, and share credit card data as shown in the task list of a contract with Argus Information & Advisory Services LLC worth $2.9 million
An “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity” contract with Experian worth up to $8,426,650 to track daily consumer habits of select individuals without their awareness or consent
A provision stipulating that “The contractor recognizes that, in performing this requirement, the Contractor may obtain access to non-public, confidential information, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), or proprietary information.”
A stipulation that “The Contractor may be required to share credit card data collected from the Banks with additional government entities as directed by the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR).”
The full extent of the CFPB personal financial data collection program is revealed in a document obtained by Judicial Watch entitled “INDEFINITE-DELIVERY INDEFINITE-QUANTITY (IDIQ) STATEMENT OF WORK.” Issued by CFPB Contracting Officer Xiaoling Ang on July 3, 2012, the IDIQ document’s stated objective: “The CFPB seeks to acquire and maintain a nationally representative panel of credit information on consumers for use in a wide range of policy research projects… The panel shall be a random sample of consumer credit files obtains from a national database of credit files.”
To accomplish this Objective, the CFPB describes the scope of the program accordingly:
The panel shall include 5 million consumers, and joint borrowers, co-signers, and authorized users [emphasis added]. The initial panel shall contain 10 years of historical data on a quarterly basis [emphasis added]. The initial sample shall be drawn from current records and historical data appended for that sample as well as additional samples during the intervening years [emphasis added] to make the combines sample representative at each point in time.
Isn’t it amazing how government officials can make a flagrant abuse of power and invasion of privacy seem ho-hum with bureau-speak?
The CFPB data collection program has been highly controversial since the April 2013 hearing, when Cordray disclosed elements of the venture at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. At the time, the US Chamber of Commerce accused the CFPB of breaking the law by demanding the account-level data without a warrant or National Security Letter.
Folks, this warrantless collection of the private financial information of millions of Americans is mind-blowing. Is there anything that this administration thinks it can’t do? These documents show that the Consumer Financial Protection Board is an out-of-control government agency that threatens the fundamental privacy and financial security of Americans.
Stay tuned. Our investigation continues.
In a week filled with major developments on major issues, the week closed with the U.S. Senate voting “Yes We Can” on illegal alien amnesty.
As reported by The AP:
With a solemnity reserved for momentous occasions, the Senate passed historic legislation Thursday offering the priceless hope of citizenship to millions of immigrants living illegally in America’s shadows. The bill also promises a military-style effort to secure the long-porous border with Mexico.
The bipartisan vote was 68-32 on a measure that sits atop President Barack Obama’s second-term domestic agenda. But the bill’s prospects are highly uncertain in the Republican-controlled House, where party leaders are jockeying for position in advance of expected action next month.
Spectators in galleries that overlook the Senate floor watched expectantly as senators voted one by one from their desks. Some onlookers erupted in chants of “Yes, we can” after Vice President Joe Biden announced the vote result.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who cited Judicial Watch’s work last week, said it best: “This must never become law.”
Now the bill heads to the House of Representatives, where its prospects are far less bright, as pointed out by The National Review. But this is no time to leave anything to chance. Amnesty is unworkable, unjust, undermines the rule of law, and will harm the public safety. That is why amnesty was rejected in the Bush administration, was rejected in Obama’s first term (the Dream Act), and why it should be rejected today.
As I urged last week, please call 202-544-3121 to let your representatives know how you feel about the illegal alien amnesty bill. There are too few moments when citizens can play a decisive role in the outcome of legislative debates in Washington. This is one of those moments.
If you have not yet been able to catch the our documentary District of Corruption on AXS TV, the movie will air tomorrow on AXS TV at 12 noon ET. Please spread the word and alert your friends and family to watch it, too. This movie packs as much of a wallop as any summer blockbuster. District of Corruption is based on my New York Times best-seller, The Corruption Chronicles. The movie covers the gamut of corruption and secrecy from the Clinton years through the Bush years to the present crisis under Barack Obama. This movie is essential to understanding our times and is a revelation on how Washington really works.
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.