by Tom Fitton –
… State Department Racket Hauled in $48 Million for Clinton Machine
So let me get this straight. Bill Clinton delivers 215 speeches around the globe while his wife is Secretary of State, hauling in $48 million for various Clinton family interests, and the Obama administration handed the Clintons an “ethical waiver” 100% of the time?
There was not one single speech that gave the administration pause? Not one?
That is what everybody is talking about in response to bombshell documents we released earlier this week, including more than 200 conflict-of-interest reviews by State Department ethics advisers. These “reviews” considered speaking engagements and consulting arrangements proposed by Bill Clinton speaking during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
(The documents were obtained as result of a federal court order in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the State Department on May 28, 2013, a lawsuit that is still ongoing.)
These documents also show that the State Department approved a consulting arrangement with a company, Teneo Strategy, led by controversial Clinton Foundation adviser Doug Band. The Clintons ended the deal after only eight months, as criticism mounted over Teneo’s ties to the failed investment firm, MF Global.
So we know that the Obama administration’s judgment as to what constitutes a “conflict of interest” is skewed, to put it nicely.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Again, Mr. Clinton’s office proposed 215 speeches around the globe during his wife’s tenure at State. And 215 times the State Department stated that it had “no objection.”
Let’s take a quick look at where Mr. Clinton took his business and the types of companies that were involved.
Mr. Clinton’s speeches included appearances in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Central America, Europe, Turkey, Thailand, Taiwan, India and the Cayman Islands.
Sponsors of the speeches included some of the world’s largest financial institutions-Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, American Express and others-as well as major players in technology, energy, health care and media. Other speech sponsors included a car dealership, casino groups, hotel operators, retailers, real estate brokers, a Panamanian air cargo company and a sushi restaurant.
And, again, zero objections from the Obama administration.
How the Obama State Department waived hundreds of ethical conflicts that allowed the Clintons and their businesses to accept money from foreign entities and corporations seeking influence boggles the mind. That former President Clinton trotted the globe collecting huge speaking fees while his wife presided over U.S. foreign policy is an outrage.
No wonder it took a court order to get these documents. What foreign policy issues were mishandled as top State Department officials spent so much time facilitating the Clinton money machine? You can see the details for yourself by reading the documents we forced from this “transparent” administration. Just click here.
The Washington Examiner published a report this week on the documents analyzed by Judicial Watch Chief Investigative Reporter Micah Morrison and Examiner Senior Watchdog Reporter Luke Rosiak that dove into the specifics of these speeches and those in attendance.
Morrison and Rosiak note that Mr. Clinton “earned $48 million while his wife presided over U.S. foreign policy, raising questions about whether the Clintons fulfilled ethics agreements related to the Clinton Foundation during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.”
And here are some of the specific Clinton activities that did not cause so much as a raised eyebrow within the Obama administration, per the State Department documents we uncovered:
• Mr. Clinton spoke before a UBS Wealth Management audience in Chicago in April, 2012. The State Department document notes that attendees would be “approximately 300-400 ultra-high net worth clients, prospective clients, and UBS Financial Advisers.”
• Mr. Clinton spoke to an event hosted by Wells Fargo in San Francisco in October, 2011. The State Department document notes that the event is “being held for Wells Fargo Private Bank and Wells Fargo Family Wealth Group clients, which are clients that have at least $5 million and $50 million in assets respectively.”
• At a “mutually agreeable date” in April 2010, Mr. Clinton was due to speak at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. “This would be a private speech of up to 350 friends and patrons of Mohegan Sun,” the State Department document noted. “The event will not be open to the public. The event will not be publicly advertised.”
• For a speech in Moscow in June 2010 sponsored by the investment bank Renaissance Capital, Mr. Clinton would address the theme of “Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States: Going Global.” The document notes that “Renaissance Capital is an investment bank focused on the emerging markets of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and sub-Saharan Africa.”
• At the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, Mr. Clinton spoke at a March 2011 ticketed event targeting “the business community in Grand Cayman.”
These documents clearly show how the Clintons turned the State Department into a racket to line their own pockets. Of course we all suspected this is how things would go down, with the Clinton machine getting its hooks into the Obama administration, which has corruption and lawlessness issues that would make Boss Tweed blush.
The potential for conflicts of interest between Hillary Clinton’s role as Secretary of State and Bill Clinton’s international ventures grew increasingly controversial in late 2008 when the former president released a list of donors to his library and foundation in what he termed “a deal between” Obama “and Hillary.”
According to an AP wire story, “Saudi Arabia gave $10 million to $25 million to the foundation. Other government donors include Norway, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei, Oman …” CNN at the time warned that Clinton’s “complicated global business interests could present future conflicts of interest that result in unneeded headaches for the incoming commander-in-chief.”
Here’s where CNN was off: This president doesn’t get headaches over ethics.
Under established protocols of the State Department, and supplemented by a December 2008 Memorandum of Understanding between the Clinton Foundation and Obama Presidential Transition Team, a designated ethics official from the State Department’s legal office was assigned to review any “potential or actual conflict of interest” for Mrs. Clinton while she served as secretary of state. Copies of all decisions were sent to a top adviser to Secretary Clinton, Cheryl Mills, who served as counselor and chief of staff at the Department of State.
Yes, that Cheryl Mills. Bill Clinton’s former deputy White House counsel and a longtime Clinton family confidant, who, the Washington Post wrote in 1999 “endeared herself to the Clintons with her never-back-down, share-nothing, don’t-give-an-inch approach …” After clearing Mrs. Clinton for the DOS job, Mills was named the incoming Secretary’s Chief of Staff. Ms. Mills was a featured speaker at Bill Clinton’s 2012 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting.
In an April 28, 2008, ruling relating to Ms. Mills conduct as a White House official in responding to concerns about lost White House email records, Judge Royce C. Lamberth called Cheryl Mills’ participation in the matter “loathsome.” He further stated Mills was responsible for “the most critical error made in this entire fiasco… Mills’ actions were totally inadequate to address the problem.” Ms. Mills is currently on the Board of Directors of BlackRock, a leading investment firm. BlackRock is run by Larry Fink who reportedly wanted to be Treasury Secretary for Barack Obama and now, according to another report, is “angling for the job” in a Hillary Clinton administration.
Judicial Watch is not surprised that the Clintons cast aside any semblance of ethical bearing to fill their coffers, yet the breadth their scheme and the haul it yielded is truly shocking. And it bears repeating that, given concerns about potential corruption associated with Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State, she obtained her position based on promises of a rigorous ethics process by both her and the Obama administration. The U.S. Senate was suckered by these promises because, as we’ve shown thanks to a court order, the promised ethics process was a joke.
The State Department has “found” more documents which they should soon be giving us, so we’ll keep you posted on more developments as they arise.
Federal Court Orders Obama Administration to Release Fast and Furious Information
When it comes to forcing the release of information from the Obama administration – especially records Congress has been unable to obtain – our attorneys and investigators are on a roll. There’s no other way to put it.
Just between the Benghazi and the IRS scandals, we’ve shown repeatedly that Judicial Watch is the most effective watchdog – private or government – in Washington.
And now this week, it’s the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the microscope for stonewalling records related to the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, in which the Obama administration allowed guns to “walk” into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, ultimately leading to the deaths of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and countless Mexicans.
On July 18, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Obama DOJ must turn over to the organization a “Vaughn index” of all requested Operation Fast and Furious materials from the June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent September 2012 FOIA lawsuit. We sought all of the documents the Obama White House was withholding from the House of Representatives under executive privilege claims.
The ruling by Judge John D. Bates lifted a lengthy 16-month delay of our open records lawsuit. And now the Obama DOJ, for the first time, must provide a detailed listing of all documents that it has withheld from Congress and the American people for years about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal. The court ordered production of the information by October 1.
The Justice Department opposed the Judicial Watch action, claiming it would interfere with the department’s continuing litigation with the House Oversight Committee concerning these Fast and Furious documents subpoenaed in October 2011. (You may recall back in September 2012, President Obama whisked in at the last minute to protect his Attorney General by asserting executive privilege over the documents.)
In the July 2014 opinion overruling the Obama Justice Department’s request for an almost indefinite hold on our legal right to obtain this information under the Freedom of Information Act, Bates said:
In the [February 15, 2013] order granting the stay, this court explicitly noted that the DOJ ‘does not seek, and the court will not award, an indefinite stay pending ultimate resolution of the House Committee litigation,’ and that ‘the benefits of delaying this case might well [become] too attenuated to justify any further delay …
Because many of the issues to be resolved in this case do not overlap with the House committee, and because resolving those issues will not risk upsetting the delicate balance of powers in subpoena disputes between the political branches, the Court will require DOJ to produce a Vaughn index here.
In fact, the court took it one step further suggesting that disclosing information to Judicial Watch might actually resolve the legal dispute now before Judge Amy Berman Jackson between the Obama administration and Congress:
True, nothing in the subpoena enforcement context of House Committee would require DOJ to produce a particularized description of the withheld documents…But this is a FOIA case, and since 1973, when Vaughn was decided, courts in this circuit have required agencies to justify their FOIA withholdings on a particularized basis. And doing so here will not prematurely expose or resolve the executive privilege issues ahead of Judge Jackson and the political branches; it will merely permit the parties and this Court to cull from the dispute any documents as to which a valid, non-executive privilege reason for withholding exists, thereby narrowing or perhaps even resolving the case.
To the extent DOJ argues that the mere production of the Vaughn index-not involving the release of any documents in dispute-would alter the historical balance of powers between the branches, any unbalancing would result from FOIA itself, a law passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, and which this Court cannot ignore forever.
Judge Bates also noted no court has ever “expressly recognized” President Obama’s executive privilege claims that his administration is using to keep these documents secret from Congress and the American people.
And what exactly is a Vaughn Index? This is in essence a report that describes the records being withheld by the Obama administration. Each Vaughn index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption.
In ordering the DOJ to provide Judicial Watch the Vaughn index, the Court ruled, “In this circuit, when an agency is withholding documents under exemption claims, courts require that the agency provide a Vaughn index so that the FOIA requester – at a distinct informational disadvantage – may test the agency’s claims.”
And that’s exactly what we are going to do. Because the Obama administration is playing games with FOIA law, including the president himself.
As I mentioned earlier, on June 20, 2012, President Obama improperly asserted executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed eight months earlier. Two days later, we filed our FOIA request. When the DOJ denied that request, we filed a FOIA lawsuit on September 12, 2012.
On February 15, 2013, Judge Bates stayed the case, in part to allow ongoing settlement discussions between the DOJ and the House Committee to continue. Judge Bates’ order lifted the stay after a lengthy July 18 hearing. Generally speaking, the documents at issue are about how and if the Obama administration misled Congress about the Fast and Furious matter.
Once again, Judicial Watch beat Congress to the punch in getting key information about another Obama scandal – this time, the Fast and Furious outrage. A federal court has ordered the Obama administration to produce information that could, for the first time, provide specific details as to who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people.
This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in face of all this lawlessness. Finally, we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the countless others murdered as a result of the insanely reckless Obama administration program.
Now this Judicial Watch lawsuit for key Fast and Furious documents is one of several FOIA lawsuits Judicial Watch has filed in its effort to obtain information concerning the Fast and Furious scandal.
Most recently, on May 28, 2014, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ on behalf of ATF Special Agent John Dodson, who heroically blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious and was then subjected to an alleged smear campaign designed to destroy his reputation.
Congress tried to get this information by holding Holder in contempt and then engaging in a seemingly never-ending constitutional court battle, but Judicial Watch is about to crack this case with our simple FOIA lawsuit. For those of you who have been fighting this battle with us, thank you for your support. Please keep it coming! We’re making some incredible progress in holding the government accountable. If you’d like to make a secure tax deductible contribution, please click here.
Judicial Watch in Court: Minority Vote Turnout Up After Election Integrity Measures Implemented in North Carolina
We’ve all heard the Left’s (especially the Obama administration’s) tired old “race-baiting” argument against voter integrity measures – ad nauseum. For example, if measures are put into place to require identification before casting a vote, the story goes, minority voters will be shut out of the voting process.
But what if I told you that the evidence shows the precise opposite result occurred in North Carolina – that the number of minority voters actually increased after election integrity measures were implemented in the state? Because that’s exactly what took place, as we pointed out in court earlier this month.
Allow me to backtrack to put this development in context.
On July 7, 2013 a federal district court in Winston-Salem, North Carolina held hearings on a motion to enjoin the enforcement of North Carolina House Bill (HB) 589 in the 2014 general election. The plaintiffs in that case include the U.S. Department of Justice run by Attorney General Eric Holder, the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters.
The North Carolina legislature passed HB 589 in July 2013, and Governor Pat McCrory signed it into law in August, calling it “an overwhelmingly popular common-sense law.”
HB 589 contains a number of reforms relating to election integrity, including a provision for voter ID, the elimination of same-day registration, shortening the early voting period from 17 to ten days, and requiring that voters cast their ballots in their own precincts.
Judicial Watch subsequently filed an amicus curiae brief in partnership with the Allied Educational Foundation supporting the State of North Carolina and the election integrity provisions. Now an amicus participant is not typically given the opportunity to participate in oral arguments but the court made an exception in this case.
And on July 10, 2014, Christopher Coates, former Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice, presented our arguments in court. Mr. Coates pointed out that – despite the dire predictions of plaintiffs and their witnesses – voter turnout, and in particular minority turnout, actually increased in the recent primary elections held in North Carolina in May of this year, after the implementation of the reforms contained in HB 589.
Following oral arguments, the court indicated that it would likely rule on the motion in the next few weeks.
Now let’s a look at the specific arguments we raised in court and with our amicus curiae brief filed on June 18, 2014 with the AEF and Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill. (Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill ran for County Commissioner of Buncombe County in 2012 and lost a very close election. She alleges that this loss was due to same-day registration during early voting and to improperly cast ballots.)
Now, I realize full well that the Left never lets the facts get in the way of a good narrative. Liberals would prefer, as they have done in this case, to rely upon theory, conjecture and dishonest statistics to make their ideological and partisan points. But the numbers we found are clear and indisputable.
In our amici brief, Judicial Watch and AEF compared the results of a May 4, 2010, primary election with those of a May 14, 2014, primary election, the first major election to be held in North Carolina since the passage of HB 589. And the turnout numbers are “devastating to the Justice Department’s case because they contradict all of their experts’ basis for asserting harm:”
The results of this analysis … show that black turnout increased in 2014 by every meaningful measure. Black share of the total electorate increased. The percentage of black registered voters voting increased. Using Census Bureau estimates, Dr. Camarota [the Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies] found an increase in turnout among blacks of voting age. Finally, while turnout increased across the board in May 2014, and while white turnout increased by 13.7%, black turnout increased much faster – by an astonishing 29.5%.
You can read our brief in full here. But let me just call attention to several of the most important “inconvenient truths” for the anti-election integrity activists running the Justice Department:
The Increase in Black Turnout in the Recent Primary Elections Compared to the Last Such Elections Shows That Injunctive Relief is Not Warranted.
On May 6, 2014, thirteen days before the filing of the instant motion for a preliminary injunction, the State of North Carolina held primary elections for federal and state offices, including statewide primaries for the office of U.S. Senator. The North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) posted turnout data for these elections on its website soon after the elections, which data subsequently was updated. It also posted turnout data for the last off-year primary held in May 2010.
This data was analyzed by Dr. Steven A. Camarota, an expert retained by amici. He confirms that the “May 4, 2010 election makes for a good comparison with the May 6, 2014 election because both were primary elections held in May of a non-presidential year.” He describes the result as a “natural experiment,” because the “May 6, 2014 election is the first and only election to occur” after HB 589 repealed same-day registration and out-of-precinct ballots and restricted early voting.
The results of this analysis – which may be reproduced using the publicly available data files – show that black turnout increased in 2014 by every meaningful measure. Black share of the total electorate increased. The percentage of black registered voters voting increased.
Using Census Bureau estimates, Dr. Camarota found an increase in turnout among blacks of voting age. Finally, while turnout increased across the board in May 2014, and while white turnout increased by 13.7%, black turnout increased much faster – by an astonishing 29.5%. Dr. Camarota concludes that “a comparison of the May 2010 primary and the May 2014 primary indicates that the new law will not negatively impact black participation in the election process in North Carolina.”
These results are devastating to Plaintiffs’ case, because they contradict all of their experts’ bases for asserting harm. Instead of a real-world test of the effects of HB 589, Plaintiffs have relied on elaborate analyses of its probable effects; and their experts have not been shy about predicting dramatic and dire consequences. As just one example, Dr. Charles Stewart opined that 915,426 North Carolina voters (204,959 black and 710,467 white) would have been “burdened” in the off-year elections of 2010 by the changes HB 589 makes to same-day registration, early voting, and out-of-precinct voting. He calculates that close to 2 million North Carolina voters (769,492 black and 1,172,119 white) would have been “burdened” by those changes in 2012.
Given such testimony, we might expect turnout not just to decline following the implementation of HB 589, but to crash. On May 6, 2014, however, both total turnout and black turnout significantly increased. This outcome is not merely another piece of evidence for the Court to consider. Rather, it fundamentally undermines Plaintiffs’ entire case by showing that all of the various models, hypotheses, correlations, and conjectures presented in almost 900 pages of expert reports are unreliable, because they predicted the opposite of what happened.
These facts also doom Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction. Plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on the merits of a claim asserting either discriminatory effect or intent if the challenged provisions of HB 589 do not, in fact, cause any discernible disadvantage to minority voters. Far from suffering irreparable harm, both black and white voters will, as the recent primary elections indicate, simply adapt to the new rules and continue to turn out to vote. Finally, in the absence of any such harm, no consideration based on a balance of the equities or on the public interest will weigh in favor of preliminary relief. Because the only real-world test that we have belies the Plaintiffs’ predictions of harm resulting from HB 589, their request for an injunction should be denied.
JW also notes that the “North Carolina General Assembly had a Substantial Interest in Passing HB 589” that should not be ignored: “In the legislative history of HB 589, its proponents claimed that preventing voter fraud and promoting public confidence in elections … justified the enactment of the challenged election procedures. Plaintiffs now ask this Court to scrutinize the public policy reasons given by members of the General Assembly for HB 589, and to do so without acknowledging that the Supreme Court has recognized the importance and legitimacy of these very interests … To allow this type of attack would be to allow an undue encroachment upon the legislative branch’s prerogative to make the laws for the Tar Heel State.”
The Obama Justice Department attack on HB 589 was not unexpected. On the day the bill passed, Attorney General Eric Holder in a speech to the National Urban League concerning the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby Co. v. Holder said that a DOJ voting rights lawsuit against Texas “is the Department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last.”
This statement was widely seen as a reference to a potential lawsuit against North Carolina over its photo ID law. Former Holder spokesman Matt Miller said the next day: “From everything I’ve read, the writing’s on the wall that the North Carolina law is going to draw a DOJ challenge.”
On July 29, 2013, a group of political activists attended a meeting at the White House with Attorney General Holder, Labor Secretary (formerly Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division) Tom Perez, and President Obama. Those attending included representatives from the ACLU, the NAACP, and Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton subsequently told MSNBC that, based upon what he heard at the “unprecedented” meeting, he expected action regarding North Carolina “when this governor signs the bill.”
The recent election in North Carolina shows that the Obama administration is engaged in a race-baiting canard when it suggests that voting integrity measures suppress minority votes. HB 589 aligns North Carolina with the vast majority of states (42) that do not allow a person to register and vote on the same day. It is high time that the Obama administration comes into line with the majority of the American people who want to strengthen rather than weaken ballot box integrity.
Regarding our partners, the Allied Educational Foundation, this is a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life through education. In furtherance of that goal, the Foundation has engaged in a number of projects which include, but are not limited to, educational and health conferences domestically and abroad. AEF has frequently partnered with Judicial Watch to fight government and judicial corruption.
We’ve earned some victories together. Let’s hope this is another.
Tom Fitton – President