by Tom Fitton –
Obamacare set a nasty precedent in Washington: radical and unpopular legislation is developed behind closed doors and then passed quickly, without time for sufficient public scrutiny.
Tragically, this is exactly what is happening on Capitol Hill as the so-called “bi-partisan Gang of Eight” Senators (four Democrats and four Republicans) is working with the Obama White House to craft broad, sweeping changes to our immigration enforcement system with a shocking lack of transparency.
Some U.S. Senators don’t like the backroom dealing on this so-called “comprehensive immigration reform.”
In fact, on March 19, 2013, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee – sans two Senators from the so-called “Gang of Eight” (Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona) – sent a letter to Chairman Patrick Leahy issuing a simple request: “provide all members of the Senate, and, most importantly, the public, a full and fair opportunity to become adequately informed on illegal alien amnesty discussions and legislation.”
Here are a few excerpts from the letter I’d like to share with you:
As you are aware, this [amnesty] bill potentially could be the most dramatic and consequential alteration of our immigration system in nearly 30 years, impacting nearly every aspect of our legal and economic structure, and increasing entitlement spending to historic levels.
Accordingly, we respectfully request that the public be given adequate time, consistent with past practices in handling complex comprehensive immigration legislation, to read and analyze the contents of any such bill before it is listed on the Committee’s Executive Business Meeting agenda. We further request that during this time, the Committee hold hearings on the overarching issues integral to the legislation.
We believe the process we have set forth is necessary not only to ensure that members are properly educated on this complex measure, but also to ensure a fair and open process so that the American people know what is in any such bill.
The letter also noted that, during debate over immigration reform in 1982, Congress held 100 hours of hearings and hosted 300 witnesses. Debate over the bill lasted for three years.
And this time around? Senator Leahy has one measly hearing on the calendar, scheduled for next week – despite the fact that the amnesty legislation has not been presented yet! Not good enough say Senate Republicans. According to Fox News: “Republican senators complained…that plans to hold just one hearing on a yet-to-be-unveiled immigration overhaul are ‘unacceptable’ – as they continued to press for more details on how much the legislation could cost taxpayers…”
Senator Jeff Sessions, a vocal critic of the secretive nature of the amnesty negotiations issued a strong statement on Wednesday of this week rebuking Senator Leahy for “doubling down” on his plan to rush the bill through Congress:
The process that Chairman Leahy has described – a single hearing on a potentially 1,500 page bill – is unacceptable. It is an explicit rejection of the process demanded by Judiciary Committee Republicans and endorsed by Senator Rubio.
To acquiesce to such a process would be to accept the Majority’s plan to rush through this massive legislation before the American people know what’s in it. Now that the special interests have what they want, the deal has been made: force it through and set the public interest aside
Senator Sessions called for a hearing “on every component of reform, including the extraordinary potential costs to taxpayers, the impact on wages and job prospects for the unemployed, and the Administration’s continued refusal to enforce the laws previously enacted by Congress.”
Now it’s your turn. Contact your Senators today and tell them your views on whether amnesty should be rushed through Congress. The phone number for the Capitol Hill switchboard is 202-224-3121. And here’s a link to a site where you can find the contact information for every U.S. Senator.
Senate liberals, open border Republicans and their special interest illegal immigration allies want to shut you out of this debate. Don’t let them.
Corporate Cronyism and the Food Stamp Army
The massive $80 billion per year federal “food stamp” program was the focus of a special on the Fox News Channel’s Hannity program called “Boomtown 2: The Business of Food Stamps.” I was privileged to be a guest on the program, which exposed an Obama administration scheme to use the food stamp program to foster a massive redistribution of wealth.
As has been reported frequently, the Obama administration is proudly shattering welfare records with an astonishing number of people collecting public benefits long-term, especially food stamps. Obama and his friends have actually found a way to meld corporate cronyism with food stamp abuse to line their pockets while undermining our election systems.
Under Obama, the “food stamp” program has exploded with a record number of people-46 million and growing-getting free groceries from the American taxpayer. Adding insult to injury, a federal audit revealed last year that many who don’t qualify for food stamps now receive them under a new “broad-based” eligibility program that disregards income and asset requirements.
Obama says the food stamp extension is part of his intention of eradicate “food insecure households.” But, it’s really part of a massive redistribution of the wealth. Last year, taxpayers were forced to pay more than $80 billion, including an estimated $750 million a year in outright fraud.
The term “estimated” is used advisedly here, because, the fact is, the government is involved in a deliberate cover-up to prevent taxpayers from learning the full truth about who receives food stamps, how they are spent, and how much of it is going for illicit – and even nefarious – purchases. As a stunning study by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) recently revealed, “The USDA already collects such data. So far, however, the data have not been made available to the public.”
Now, you might be wondering why the federal government would want to withhold such vital information from those who are forced to pick up the food stamp tab. In particular, why would it be so reluctant to thoroughly investigate and expose food stamp fraud? Well, a large part of the answer lies in the title of the GAI study: “Profits from Poverty: How Food Stamps Benefit Corporations.”
According to the study, the current food stamp Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card industry is dominated by three main players: J.P. Morgan Electronic Financial Services, Affiliated Computer Services, and eFunds. Together they collect money from 49 states and three territories. In fact, since 2004, 18 of 24 states that contract with J.P. Morgan have paid more than $560 million to the financial monolith.
Little wonder then that those three companies appear to be perfectly content with the exploding food stamp rolls – and wholly unconcerned about rampant fraud and abuse. As the GAI study observed, “The more persons enrolled in the program, the more money the EBT industry makes.” That may also help explain why, when the state of Florida initiated an eight-month program to detect and prevent fraud among its three million EBT card users, J.P. Morgan saw fit to assign just one employee to the program.
And then there is this: During the 2008 election, Barack Obama received more than $800,000 from J.P. Morgan alone. After his election, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, initiated by Obama and passed by a compliant Congress, made two major changes to existing food stamp policies. First, it increased benefits by 13.6 percent. Second, it actively encouraged states to add more recipients to their food stamp rolls.
But, the corporate cronyism and political payoffs don’t end there. The House and Senate Agricultural Committees have jurisdiction over all food assistance and distribution programs, including the food stamp program.
So, just as one might expect, analysis by the GAI uncovered a clear trend of increasing contributions to Agriculture Committee members of both the House and Senate on the part of J.P. Morgan that clearly coincides with their entry into the lucrative EBT card food stamp market. Between 1998 and 2002, Morgan’s total contributions per election cycle averaged $82,897. After the bank entered the EBT services market until the 2010 election cycle, their average donation per cycle more than doubled to $215,120. And the Agriculture Committees, in turn, have broadly expanded the number of food stamp recipients.
Of course, the more recipients that are added to the food stamp rolls, the more voters Obama can count on at election time. And, the offshoots of Obama’s former client and campaign partner, ACORN, assure not only that those voters are registered, but also that they know to whom they are beholden for their government handouts.
The GAI study concludes, “Increasing profits for JP Morgan in turn means increasing returns for investors.” And, unfortunately, they also appear to mean an exponentially increasing food stamp bill for the American taxpayer. And, Obama’s new Food Stamp Army is seen as a reliable source of new voters for the progressive agenda.
ACORN’s Project Vote remains highly active in registering voters on public assistance. In Colorado, as you may recall, Judicial Watch uncovered documents proving that ACORN/Project Vote successfully pressured Colorado officials into implementing new policies for increasing the registration of public assistance recipients during the 2008 and 2010 election seasons.
And what was the result of these new policies?
The percentage of fraudulent voter registration forms from Colorado public assistance agencies exploded to four times the national average. Our investigations also show that the Obama Justice Department is partnering with Project Vote in this campaign to register as many public assistance voters as possible, while neglecting (or outright opposing) legal requirements that ineligible voters are kept off of the voting rolls.
You can see that there are many big lies in the food stamp program. Rather than putting food on the table for poor people, the program is now about massive cash transfer payments to not-so-poor people and major corporations, greased by campaign donations – all in the hopes of gaining new voters – legal or not.
The 11-year-old FOIA
If you haven’t clicked to read our Corruption Chronicles blog, you’re missing a treat. My JW colleague Irene Garcia has made this blog the “go to” source for government corruption stories on the Internet. This week, a post on an almost comical contempt for transparency gained a lot of attention.
The U.S. government, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, is renowned for violating federal transparency laws and blowing off or unscrupulously delaying records requests, but this is a bit much.
Judicial Watch recently got an official rejection letter involving a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that dates back to 2002! It almost seems like a joke, but it’s not. As part of a broad investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks, JW submitted FOIA requests to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) in September 2002.
It’s quite common for federal agencies as well as the White House to flip the finger at FOIA requests that could expose wrongdoing or shed a negative light. In fact, JW often must file lawsuits to get “public” records that should not require litigation to obtain. In this particular case, it took the DIA and NSA a whopping 11 years to determine that the information falls under the “release authority” of a different agency-the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
This means that the NCIS must now take the time to consider the records request, which requires a “classification review,” according to the 11-year-old response JW got recently from the Navy. “Your request has been placed in our complex queue. At this time we are unable to provide you an approximate completion date.” Reading between the lines, this means that no one should hold their breath since there appears to be no intention of furnishing the records.
At least the Navy’s letter, laughable as it is, offers an apology for taking 11 years to respond. “We apologize for the delay in processing your request.” Again, it’s not uncommon to get the run-around during the FOIA process and lawsuits are par for the course, but this shatters all records. Perhaps this one should be framed.
These types of obstacles, however, don’t stop JW from rooting out government corruption. When it comes to 9/11, JW has been a leader in exposing much of what the mainstream media has failed to report. Earlier this year, for instance, JW obtained documents from the State Department indicating that the FBI knew days after the 9/11 attacks that Anwar al-Aulaqi, assassinated by a U.S. drone in Yemen in 2011, had purchased airplane tickets for three of the terrorist hijackers.
This is relevant because al-Aulaqi, who was born in the U.S., was detained and released by authorities at least twice and had been invited to dine at the Pentagon. Yet the feds knew he had purchased airline tickets for the following 9/11 hijackers: Mohammed Atta, America West Airlines, 08/13/2001, for a flight from Washington, DC, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to Miami, Florida; S. Suqami, Southwest Airlines, 07/10/2001, for a flight from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Orlando, Florida; Al-Sheri, National Airlines, 08/01/2001, for a flight from San Francisco, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to Miami, Florida.
Over the years, we have seen some off-the-wall attempts by the federal government to avoid releasing information. We’ve heard the ridiculous excuses, the outrageous legal claims, and have suffered one trick after another.
As I told the Daily Caller:
“It is a sad reminder that when it comes to being accountable, when it comes to following the law, the federal government doesn’t give a rat’s tail,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton told The Daily Caller. “And this is why we have had to sue well over a hundred times to get access to government information.”
There is a transparency crisis in Washington, DC – remember that (and the 11-year Freedom of Information Act request!) the next time you hear President Obama (or any other president) boast of their transparency efforts. I encourage you to go to our Internet site to find out about efforts to stem the transparency crisis – and how you can help us bring transparency and accountability to our out-of-control government.
Tom Fitton – President