This week brought a stunning development in Judicial Watch's efforts to hold Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) accountable for sexually harassing Winsome Packer when they were both involved in the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, known as the Helsinki Commission. (Hastings was the chairman and Ms. Packer was his employee). The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) has concluded there is "probable cause" to believe Hastings "violated House rules, standards of conduct and federal law."
This conclusion came in a report issued to the House Ethics Committee on October 11, 2011, when the OCE referred the matter for further investigation. It was released to the public this week. The House Ethics Committee, for its part, announced it will continue its review of the case against Hastings as it seeks additional evidence.
Of course, this whole controversy was brought to light when Judicial Watch filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Hastings on behalf of Ms. Packer on March 7, 2011.
Ms. Packer alleges that Rep. Hastings subjected her to unwelcome sexual advances and touching over a two-year period when she worked for the Helsinki Commission. Ms. Packer further alleges that Rep. Hastings, with the assistance of Helsinki Commission Staff Director Fred Turner, retaliated against her when she rebuffed the congressman's advances.
Here's a squib from our original complaint detailing the allegations, which were validated by the OCE in its report:
For over two years, from January 2008 through February 19, 2010, Ms. Packer was forced to endure unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments, and unwelcome touching by Mr. Hastings while serving as the Representative of the Commission to the United States Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Although Ms. Packer repeatedly rejected Mr. Hastings' sexual attention and repeatedly complained about the harassment to the Commission Staff Director, Fred Turner, Mr. Hastings refused to stop sexually harassing her. Rather, Mr. Hastings and Mr. Turner began to retaliate against Ms. Packer-including making threats of termination-because she continued to object to Mr. Hastings' conduct. Ms. Packer was particularly vulnerable to such threats because she was a Republican working for the Democratically-controlled Commission, a point that both Mr. Hastings and Mr. Turner used to threaten and intimidate her. Eventually, the emotional distress, anxiety, and humiliation caused by the sexual harassment and retaliation caused Ms. Packer to suffer severe health problems and forced her to leave her prestigious position.
True to form, Hastings attacked Ms. Packer, Judicial Watch, and the OCE this week. (It could not be more obvious that Hastings is huffing and puffing in an effort to distract the press from the factual allegations against him.)
Here are some remarks I offered to the press in response to the OCE report and House Ethics Committee decision:
We are very pleased that the Office of Congressional Ethics report validated Ms. Packer's allegations against Rep. Hastings. Now the House Ethics Committee needs to get its act together and punish Rep. Hastings for his reprehensible treatment of Ms. Packer. Given the grave nature of the allegations and the other laws he evidently violated, the Department of Justice ought to investigate the allegations against Rep. Hastings as well.
In the meantime, Judicial Watch will proceed with its lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Packer.
Rep. Hastings' attacks against Winsome Packer are disgraceful and beneath the office he holds. His response calls to mind his corrupt behavior that resulted in his impeachment and removal from the federal bench.
As you might recall, Judicial Watch worked with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi's team to help create the OCE, and I'm glad to see that it did its job, at least in this case. But the OCE can only recommend matters to the House Ethics Committee, which is the only body that can take punitive action against Hastings. Let's hope the committee members decide to put the rule of law ahead of political considerations and gets on the ball and begins a real investigation. The Ethics Committee has had the OCE recommendation for over three months but has yet to interview Ms. Packer. And Eric Holder's Justice Department has any shred of integrity left, it will finally initiate an investigation as well.
In the meantime, our effort to seek accountability for Ms. Packer will continue through Judicial Watch's independent litigation.
New Documents Reveal Cost of Barack and Michelle
Obama's Failed Bid to Bring 2016 Olympics to Chicago
The Obamas have developed quite the reputation for wasting taxpayer dollars on unnecessary global trips. Michelle Obama's family vacation to Africa is one very recent example. Another is the Obamas' failed bid to bring the Olympics to Chicago back in 2009.
Just to set the stage, while the nation was facing a large-scale crisis involving Iran's nuclear ambitions, two wars abroad and a failing economy at home, the Obamas decided to take an extraordinary excursion to Copenhagen, Denmark to visit the International Olympics Committee (IOC). Their goal was to persuade the committee to choose Chicago, the Obama's hometown, for the next Olympics games. (It was the first time a sitting president was present for an Olympics vote. They usually have better things to do.)
Michelle Obama reportedly made an "impassioned" plea to the IOC, but it fell flat. Chicago did not make it past the first round of voting and the Obamas came home empty-handed, and utterly embarrassed.
Judicial Watch immediately launched an investigation to find out how much this "embarrassment" cost the American taxpayers.
And after more than two years of stonewalling and obfuscating, JW investigators finally got hold of records detailing costs associated with the two-week trip. According to these records, obtained from the Obama Department of Defense (DOD), expenses for the trip appear to have far exceeded $467,175. And this number doesn't even cover the in-flight costs associated with the aircraft ‒ two Boeing 747s and several Air Force cargo planes – which have not been made available.
Here are a few of the known itemized costs associated with the Olympics' trip (totaling $467,175):
$235,659 – Hotel rental for seven "offices" plus transportation and communications (through October 2, 2009)
$33,044 – Cost of extra day in hotel (October 3, 2009)
$129,276 – Travel vouchers for hotel, mileage, reimbursed expenses, and flight costs for persons attending
$69,196 – Flight costs for press
And who was chosen to be part of the Obamas' Chicago Olympics dream team?
According to the records, President and Mrs. Obama; Secretary Ray LaHood; Secretary Arne Duncan; Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President Valerie Jarrett; and representatives of the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sport visited Copenhagen from September 21 through October 3. The Obama administration ferried dozens of other participants, including supporting staff members, to Copenhagen. However, for some unknown reason, the DOD has redacted many of their names.
You remember Jarrett, right? She's the corrupt former slumlord once described as "the other half of Obama's brain."
President Obama tapped Jarrett to serve as his "Olympics Czar" and lead the effort to secure the Olympics for Chicago despite her personal and business ties to Chicago, which included a stint working for Mayor Daley.
Jarrett's prior work on the Olympics bid would have violated Obama's own Executive Order against engaging in lobbying activities prior to his administration. However, then-"Ethics Czar" Norm Eisen granted Jarrett an "ethics waver" from the president's highly-touted ethics pledge so Jarrett could run the push for the Chicago Olympics bid. (Only in the Obama administration would an official need to have ethics "waived" in order to perform her job responsibilities.) The waiver exempted Jarrett from the restrictions of President Obama's own ethics pledge, even though she had personally led the bid before entering the White House.
As I say, the battle for these records was none too easy. We filed our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on October 5, 2009. FOIA law required the DOD to respond within 20 days. However, the DOD took 26 months to release the records. In September 2009, Judicial Watch also submitted an open records request with then-Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's to obtain Olympics bid records and, surprise, had to file a lawsuit against the mayor's office to get a response.
The Obamas tried to pass off this Olympics bid as "good for the country." But let's be honest. The Obamas wasted taxpayer dollars on a junket that seemed designed for one purpose – to take care of their Chicago cronies who stood to gain financially from the Olympics racket. Valerie Jarrett's need for an "ethics waiver" to lead this failed bid to bring the Olympics to Chicago tells you almost all you need to know about the scandalous nature of this trip.
Where do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Ethics
and the Rule of Law? Help JW Find Out!
This week we launched a large-scale effort to find out where all of the current presidential candidates stand on the issues that matter to Judicial Watch ‒ issues such as controlling illegal immigration, government power grabs and secrecy, bailouts, and the repeal of Obamacare.
To find out where the presidential candidates stand on these issues, we sent a thorough policy questionnaire to Republican presidential candidates and President Barack Obama. (Judicial Watch does not endorse or oppose candidates for public office.)
The questions focus on the rule of law, government corruption, transparency, and accountability. You can view the entire questionnaire here.
The response from many of you has been terrific, but please keep the pressure on. Politicians will go to great lengths to avoid accountability. And I have a feeling they are a little afraid of Judicial Watch!
Please ask your friends and family to contact them, too, so we can get answers from the candidates. Forward this email now.
Below are the numbers and emails of the various presidential campaigns. Please start emailing and dialing!
Cong. Newt Gingrich
Amb. Jon Huntsman
President Barack Obama
Cong. Ron Paul
Gov. Rick Perry
Gov. Mitt Romney
Sen. Rick Santorum
Thanks, as always, for your support and assistance!
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