… filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in our lawsuit against the Obama Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).
According to officials at FHFA, the agency might possess documents responsive to our Freedom of Information (FOIA) request, but they won’t give them up without a fight. In fact, the agency claims it is not obligated to release any such documents to the public. Our position is that now that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are wholly operated by the federal government these records are subject to FOIA law. Here’s a squib from our appeal:
“…the boards of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac accepted conservatorship by the FHFA with the full knowledge that the FHFA would obtain all rights, titles, powers, and privileges of the enterprises, including legal title to their books and records.
Since that time, the FHFA, a federal agency subject to FOIA, has had full legal custody and control over all of the records of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“Because the FHFA obtained these records and has exercised full legal control over them since it placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, the requested records became subject to FOIA just like any other agency records.”
We filed our original FOIA request on May 29, 2009. The FHFA acknowledged receipt of the request July 1, 2009. The agency claimed that while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might have the records, the FHFA was not obligated to release them under FOIA because the agency does not “control” them.
As the Obama administration said in its court filing, “…Any records created by or held in the custody of the Enterprises [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] reflecting their political campaign contributions or policies, stipulations and requirements concerning campaign contributions necessarily are private corporate documents. They are not ‘agency records’ subject to disclosure under FOIA.”
Unfortunately, this thin legal argument found favor in the District Court, but it was a close call. The court agreed in large part with Judicial Watch’s legal argument. However, in what we have described as a “split decision,” the court ruled that the FHFA did not ultimately control the records and therefore denied the American people access to them.
Let’s take a quick look at the court’s analysis.
There were two main questions in determining whether the FHFA records relating to Fannie and Freddie are subject to FOIA.
First, were the records created or obtained by a federal agency? The Court answered “yes” to this question and in favor of Judicial Watch’s position.
Second, does the FHFA control the records? The Court applied a four-pronged test to determine whether or not a federal agency has “control” over records:
(1) the intent of the document’s creator to [either] retain or relinquish control over the records; (2) the ability of the agency to use and dispose of the record as it sees fit; (3) the extent to which agency personnel have read or relied upon the document; and (4) the degree to which the document was integrated into the agency’s record system or files.
The District Court ruled in favor of Judicial Watch on the first two factors. However, the court ruled the latter two factors did not demonstrate control by FHFA and concluded that these factors outweighed the first two.
We countered this in our most recent appeal.
Our lawyers pointed out that it is not necessary for the court to apply the four-pronged test in this case because none of the previous cases referenced by the District Court involved records transferred to a government agency by the plain language of a congressional statute:
“In every meaningful way, the FHFA is lawfully in control of these records. There is nothing contingent, hypothetical, indefinite, or limiting about this plain statutory language vesting the FHFA with both legal custody and lawful control over the records.”
Nonetheless, according to Judicial Watch’s analysis, taken together at least three of the four factors demonstrate the FHFA’s full control over the records.
Why are we so intent on gaining possession of these records?
Members of Congress have received more than $4.8 million in political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the last ten years. According to OpenSecrets.org, from 1998 through 2008, the top ten recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s political largess are as follows: Senator Dodd (D-CT), then-Senator Obama (D-IL), Senator Kerry (D-MA), Senator Bennett (R-UT), Rep. Bachus (R-AL), Rep. Blunt (R-MO), Rep. Kanjorski (D-PA), Senator Bond (R-MO), Senator Shelby (R-AL), Senator Reed (D-RI).
Senator Dodd, the top recipient of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac campaign contributions, was Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which is responsible for regulating the mortgage industry. Notably, President Obama was a top recipient of campaign monies despite being in the Senate for only three years.
Fannie and Freddie used these political contributions to protect themselves from being held accountable as the housing market was set up for collapse. Now, as a result, taxpayers are on the hook to Fannie and Freddie for at least $400 billion — and $5 trillion in mortgage liabilities. Simply put: We believe the American people deserve to know the full truth about the partnership between Fannie and Freddie and their allies on Capitol Hill.
Certainly this administration has the political interests of Obama in mind when it tells the American people not one thing about how taxpayer-backed entitles helped fund his political rise.
To stop and expose this corruption, Judicial Watch has gone to court after court. Now we hope the appellate court puts a stop to the Obama administration’s unprecedented secrecy and releases these documents.
Islamic Radicalism at Home and Abroad
I’m sure many of you are following the news out of Egypt, where massive protests against the Mubarak regime erupted in Cairo and quickly spread across the country. Just today, the strongman was forced from office. But as The Jerusalem Post noted this week, “One of the greatest beneficiaries of the unrest in Egypt has been the Muslim Brotherhood,” an extremist Islamist movement that had been “banned but tolerated for decades by successive Egyptian regimes.”
This radical group, once banned, is now a “central player” in the struggle for power in Egypt.
How radical are they? According to a 1995 book authored by one of the movement’s leaders, the Jerusalem Post notes, objectives include “advancing the global conquest of Islam and reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate, the public and private duties of jihad and the struggle Muslims must wage against Israel.”
Muslims, the text states, will be “the leaders of humanity” and the “masters of the world.” And they will use any means to achieve this objective. No surprises there. After all, jihad means “Holy War.”
And yet, if you listen to the Obama administration, the Muslim Brotherhood is anything but a threat. Just this week Obama’s Intelligence Czar, James Clapper, irresponsibly dismissed the Muslim Brotherhood as a “largely secular” organization that has largely “eschewed violence.” So the Obama administration says don’t worry about the Muslim Brotherhood, the founding organization for the worldwide Islamic terrorist movement. Feel better? You shouldn’t. The fact is the Obama administration has completely mismanaged the situation in Egypt, perhaps helping to pave the way for radical jihadists with a proclivity to violence to take over yet another government in the Middle East.
While the drama in Egypt is far from over, Obama Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano called attention this week about what she characterized as a growing terrorist threat here at home. According to ABC News:
“The terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly in the last ten years… One of the most striking elements of today’s threat picture is that plots to attack America increasingly involve American residents and citizens,” Napolitano said, referring to so-called homegrown terrorists fueled by the Internet and connections with operatives overseas.
“Today’s threat picture?” You would think from Napolitano’s comments that this is a breaking development. But homegrown terrorist sympathizers with overseas connections have been operating for years in the United States. Worse, the federal government has known about this threat and has done virtually nothing to stop it.
Several years ago we published a report on this very topic entitled “Muslim Charities: Moderate Non-Profits or Elaborate Deceptions?”
The focus of this report is the network of so-called mainstream Muslim nonprofits here in the U.S. that launder charitable contributions and use them to support terrorists here at home and abroad. In fact, some of these front groups in our report actually support (or are branches of) the Muslim Brotherhood overseas, the same band of radicals now threatening to take control in Egypt!
In other words, the Muslim Brotherhood threat is not only in Egypt but part of the “homegrown” threat Napolitano is just now acknowledging.
These U.S.-based Islamic “charity” organizations claim to be “mainstream,” but they are simply front groups for terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
In fact, let’s see if you can tell the difference between the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood and some of our homegrown Islamic “charities.”
Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR): Siraj Wahhaj, a 2005 CAIR board member prayed that America’s “‘democracy [would] crumble,’ clearing the way for an Islamic theocracy.”
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA): Muzammil H. Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of North America during the 9/11 attack, said “America has to learn. If you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please all Americans, do remember that, Allah is watching everyone. If you continue doing injustice and tolerating injustice, the wrath of God will come.” The organization has also been reportedly leading a campaign to recruit criminals in the U.S. federal prison system to join al Qaeda.
Islamic Council of North America (ICNA): In his book, American Jihad, terrorism expert Steve Emerson writes, “The ICNA openly supports militant Islamic fundamentalist organizations, praises terror attacks, issues incendiary attacks on Western values and policies, and supports the imposition of Sharia [Islamic law].” The group, by the way, is widely considered to be a knock-off of the Muslim Brotherhood of Pakistan, which is presumably allied with the group of similar name now operating in Egypt.
So here at home we have organizations that serve as fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical terrorist groups in Egypt and elsewhere.
And yet, while Napolitano may be sounding the alarm today about the threat at home, the U.S. government has turned a blind eye to the radical ties of these organizations for years, even courting them on occasion.
Not too long ago, for example, the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration launched a CAIR-endorsed “sensitivity training program” about Islamic traditions. (You may recall, at one time CAIR was listed as an unindicted “co-conspirator” in the federal government’s prosecution against the Muslim sham charity The Holy Land Foundation. CAIR tried in vain to have this status expunged, but it was ultimately upheld.) The ISNA, meanwhile, reportedly received an invitation to send a representative to participate in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Representatives’ “White House Leadership Conference.”
It should go without saying that the federal government should not be cozying up to terrorist front groups. These sham organizations must be shut down.
A Special Counsel for Corrupt Ensign
Accountability may soon be in the offing for one of Judicial Watch’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” for 2010, Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign.
According to The Washington Post:
The Senate Ethics Committee has appointed a special counsel to lead the investigation of activities connected to Sen. John Ensign’s affair with a political aide.
Tuesday’s announcement is a dramatic turn in the probe of the Nevada Republican that has been under way for more than 16 months, suggesting that the scrutiny will run deep into the 2012 election season.
That may be true. But it doesn’t appear as if any of this is going to stop Ensign from trying to cling to his position of power in the U.S. Senate.
Politico reports that Ensign’s campaign machine keeps on running, despite Tuesday’s news:
“Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) says he’s still running for reelection in 2012 and will step up his fundraising in a bid for a third term, despite Tuesday’s surprise announcement that the Senate Ethics Committee will appoint a special counsel to investigate the Nevada Republican’s extramarital affair with a former campaign aide.”
Actually, it’s more than the extramarital affair that has Ensign in hot water. Yes, Ensign has admitted to an affair with the wife of one of his longtime staffers. But the evidence also indicates the Nevada Republican then tried to cover up his sexual shenanigans by bribing the couple with lucrative gifts and political favors.
Here’s how Ensign executed his cover-up.
According to The New York Times, after Ensign’s aide, Douglas Hampton, discovered the affair involving his wife, “Mr. Ensign asked political backers to find a job for…Hampton. Payments of $96,000 to the Hamptons also were made by Senator Ensign’s parents, who insist this was a gift, not hush money. Once a lobbying job was secured, Senator Ensign and his chief of staff continued to help Mr. Hampton, advocating his clients’ cases directly with federal agencies.”
These lobbying activities were seemingly in violation of the Senate’s “cooling off” period for lobbyists. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Under Senate rules, former Senate aides cannot lobby their former colleagues for one year after leaving Capitol Hill.” Hampton began to lobby Mr. Ensign’s office immediately upon leaving his congressional job.
And so, it appears Ensign ignored the law and allowed Hampton lobbying access to his office as a payment for the former staffer’s silence about the affair. And despite the claims of Ensign and his parents, no impartial observer would conclude that the $96,000 in “gifts” provided to the Hamptons were anything other than hush payments.
However, that was the conclusion reached by the Obama Justice Department in December 2010 when it announced it will file no criminal charges against Ensign. Same goes for the Federal Election Commission which also dismissed a related campaign finance complaint.
And so now it’s up to members of the Senate Ethics Committee to pursue justice against one of their own. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out. It is good that an independent special counsel will investigate the charges, as long as Ethics Committee Chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) — who also made “Top Ten” list — stays out of it.
JW Boosts Participation at CPAC
Judicial Watch will once again be very active at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservatives. In fact, this year the stakes are so high we’ve kicked it up a notch in terms of our participation. Along with an information booth in the CPAC Exhibit Hall, Judicial Watch will provide live updates via its Corruption Chronicles blog. Judicial Watch will also host a panel discussion and a government transparency seminar.
Click here for more information about JW’s CPAC activities. And please feel free to stop by our information booth to say hello. This year’s conference takes place February 10-12 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2660 Woodley Road, NW, Washington, DC.
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