… Just two days after liberals led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hammered his Obamacare package through Congress, the President signed the legislation into law. According to The Associated Press:
A beaming President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed a historic $938 billion health care overhaul that guarantees coverage for 32 million uninsured Americans and will touch nearly every citizen's life, presiding over the biggest shift in U.S. domestic policy since the 1960s and capping a divisive, yearlong debate that could define the November elections…
"With all the punditry, all the lobbying, all the game-playing that passes for governing here in Washington, it's been easy at times to doubt our ability to do such a big thing, such a complicated thing…,” the president said.
Did Obama really just criticize his opponents for punditry, lobbying and game-playing? Obama and his liberal allies used these tactics profusely to smash Obamacare down our throats. And, by the way, you can also add obfuscation, secrecy, bullying and manipulation to the list as well.
Make no mistake. The Obamacare push was a Chicago-style political operation orchestrated by the White House and carried out by Rahm “Rhambo” Emanuel and Nancy “The Gavel” Pelosi. It was the type of shameless power grab you’d expect in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, not the United States of America.
Of course, the President’s champagne popping notwithstanding, the battle over health care reform is just beginning. In fact, it’s just getting started. Attorneys general from 14 states have already filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the federal government commandeering sovereign state governments and imposing a mandate upon individuals to purchase health care insurance.
There is much talk in the press about how the Tea Partiers are going to take this issue to the polls in November and what the results might mean to the future of health care. Obamacare opponents are now talking about implementing a “Repeal and Replace” strategy with respect to the health care overhaul.
Of course, as regular readers of the Weekly Update know well, Judicial Watch has been investigating Obamacare since August 2009. And you can expect us to kick this battle up a notch and then some. We’ve already filed more than 20 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in order to unearth the details of the sordid backroom deals that led to the government takeover of the healthcare system.
It is worth noting that in our recent SurveyUSA poll, 62% of likely voters thought an increased government role in the health care system would lead to more corruption.
(As I mentioned last week, we recently filed a FOIA lawsuit against Health and Human Services (HHS) to uncover documents related to the secret, closed-door meetings on health care that the President held with Vice President Biden, HHS Secretary Sebelius, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and union officials.)
As Obama and Pelosi continue to celebrate (before moving on to financial “reform” and global warming legislation), Judicial Watch’s legal team is plotting its counteroffensive. Liberals may have stolen a victory in the battle over health care reform legislation, but the war against Obamacare rages on. And your Judicial Watch is right in the middle of it. Stay tuned.
Judicial Watch Probes Legal Rationale Behind Financial Bailouts
In related government-takeover-of-the-private-sector news, here we are hundreds of trillions of dollars into the financial bailouts, and one key question has never been answered. Under what authority did the United States government decide to earmark huge amounts of taxpayer funds to prop up failing (and in some cases corrupt) companies?
That question is at the center of two Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuits filed on behalf of Vern McKinley, a former employee of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
The first, originally filed by Mr. McKinley in July 2009, seeks records related to the extremely rare decision by the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve to abandon standard procedure and authorize the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) to provide “temporary emergency financing” to The Bear Stearns Companies, Inc., on March 14, 2008. Specifically, the Board authorized the FRBNY to extend a “nonrecourse loan” to JP Morgan, which in turn provided the financing to Bear Stearns.
Mr. McKinley seeks all “supporting memos and other information” the Board used to justify its decision. After Mr. McKinley filed his lawsuit, the government released 128 pages of records already available to the public and an additional 53 pages of heavily redacted material. In our view this was an inadequate and unlawful response, which is why we filed a new court motion on March 8th in the lawsuit asking the court to rule in favor of Mr. McKinley and order the government to release the documents.
According to Judicial Watch’s Cross Motion for Summary Judgment:
This case…implicates the quintessential purpose behind FOIA — piercing the veil of government secrecy and opening agency action to the light of public scrutiny.” Calling attention to the extraordinary nature of the action taken by the FDIC, Judicial Watch noted in its brief, “Not since the Great Depression had the Board exercised its authority…to authorize a loan to a non-banking entity.
The second lawsuit, filed on March 15, 2010, seeks records related to the FDIC’s decision to guarantee $306 billion of loans and securities held by Citigroup, Inc. and $118 billion held by Bank of America.
Mr. McKinley filed his original FOIA requests regarding these specific bailouts on December 4, 2009, and December 20, 2009, respectively. In addition, Mr. McKinley filed a third FOIA request on December 20, 2009, regarding the FDIC’s TLGP (Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program), which, according to the FDIC, was established to “strengthen confidence and encourage liquidity in the banking system” by guaranteeing unsecured debt and by “providing full coverage of non-interest bearing deposit transaction amounts regardless of dollar amounts.”
Mr. McKinley seeks access to “minutes and supporting memos” from the FDIC Board of Directors meetings that preceded both decisions to extend the guarantees.
After granting itself 10-day extensions to process Mr. McKinley’s FOIA requests, the FDIC has failed to respond in any substantial manner to these requests and has not released a single record. (Nor has the FDIC indicated when these records will be forthcoming.)
Ironically, the Obama administration has refused to release documents that were generated by the Bush administration. The documents also relate to decisions made Federal Bank of New York president Tim Geithner, who is now Obama’s Treasury Secretary.
Both of these lawsuits go to the heart of the government’s decision to commit hundreds of trillions of dollars in massive corporate bailouts. The government’s response to the so-called financial crisis was histrionic and unprecedented, and we deserve to know how and why these reckless decisions were made. The American people need to be assured that the government exercised proper authority under law in executing these bailouts — and who potentially stood to gain behind the scenes (which the Obama gang is also hiding).
The Obama administration’s stonewalling on these key bailout documents blows out of the water the notion that this president is truly committed to government transparency.
My Testimony to Congress on Government Transparency
Last Thursday, March 18, I made the trip to the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill to testify before the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives. The hearing was entitled “Administration of the Freedom of Information Act: Current Trends.” I was there because the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), wanted to hear from Judicial Watch.
Ironically, this hearing on transparency by the Democratic-controlled committee did not turn out well for the Obama administration. In fact, the majority’s witnesses agreed with Judicial Watch’s take that the Obama administration hasn’t made the government any more transparent — despite its promises to do so.
Here’s a bit from my introduction:
Good afternoon…Judicial Watch is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation dedicated to promoting transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Essential to our mission is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Judicial Watch used this tool effectively to root corruption in the Clinton administration and to take on the Bush administration’s penchant for improper secrecy. Founded in 1994, Judicial Watch has nearly 16 years experience is using FOIA to advance the public interest. Judicial Watch is perhaps the most active FOIA requestor and litigator operating today.
The American people were promised a new era of transparency with the Obama administration. Unfortunately, this promise has not been kept.
To be clear: the Obama administration is less transparent that the Bush administration.
We have well over 300 FOIA requests pending with the Obama administration. And we have filed over 20 FOIA lawsuits in federal court against this administration.
Administratively, agencies have thrown up additional hurdles and stonewalls to even the most basic FOIA requests. The Bush administration was tough and tricky, but the Obama administration is tougher and trickier.
If you’ve been reading this space for some time, I think you can probably guess where I took it from there. I talked about the Obama administration’s outrageous claim that the government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not "FOIAble." I talked about the Obama administration’s incessant stonewalling of our attempts to uncover the truth behind the financial bailouts. I talked about the Obama administration’s ridiculous assertion that the American people have no right to know who is visiting the White House in the President’s legal campaign to keep White House visitor logs secret.
But if you’d like to read my remarks in their entirety, please click here. A webcast of the hearing is here (my testimony begins approximately 75 minutes into the clip). The majority staff fought with me about my oral testimony beforehand, but I think we were able to get our points across at the hearing. Thank you, Congressman McHenry, for fighting to secure our testimony. And the Subcommittee Chairman, Congressman William “Lacy” Clay (D-MO), was courteous and professional — despite his clampdown on what I was “allowed” to say!
It is a testament to our Judicial Watch’s strong reputation as an effective watchdog that it was given this important opportunity to educate members of Congress about the critical importance of transparency in the proper functioning of government. And to remind them that this was a value cherished by our Founding Fathers. As John Adams wrote:
Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people…they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers.
Tom Fitton – President
Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation's public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, and to access the embedded links please go to: www.JudicialWatch.org