(JW) Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released its 2012 list of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians.”
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL):
In July 2012, the House Ethics Committee, after a haphazard investigation, reported that Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) had omitted information on his financial disclosure forms over four years. However, the ethics committee took no action because once caught, Rep. Buchanan evidently corrected the “errors.” What, exactly, were the errors? In his disclosure statements for 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, Buchanan failed to report all of his positions or ownership interests in six entities and income received from the entities.
In a separate matter, the committee continues to investigate findings of the Office of Congressional Ethics, Congress’s independent ethics review board, that there is “substantial reason to believe that Representative Buchanan attempted to influence the testimony of a witness in a proceeding before the FEC [Federal Election Commission].”
The alleged violation occurred during an FEC probe of Buchanan’s former business partner, Sam Kazran. According to Kazran, during the FEC probe, Buchanan offered him a $2.9 million settlement in a separate lawsuit if Kazran would lie about his role in a campaign cash laundering scheme involving Buchanan’s Florida car dealerships. CNN reports that the FBI is now conducting its own investigation into possible federal witness tampering.
“The final decisions on Solyndra were mine,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Committee on November 17, 2011. And this should be his political epitaph. Chu’s decision to pour $528 million tax dollars into a failing green energy boondoggle that went belly-up in 2011 is indefensible and corrupt, especially in light of the fact that Solyndra’s key investor (Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser) also happens to be a major Obama campaign donor.
On March 12, 2012, Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) Energy and Oversight Committee exposed the full extent of Chu’s incompetence and corruption in a report citing “numerous examples of dysfunction, negligence and mismanagement by DOE [Department of Energy] officials, raising troubling questions about the leadership at DOE and how it has administered its loan guarantee programs.” The report accused Chu’s DOE of having “turned a blind eye to the risks that have been glaringly apparent since the inception of the program.”
Whether Chu indeed made the “final” decision on Solyndra, or is simply protecting the president and his donor, this is a scandal of a major magnitude. And yet, it is only the tip of the iceberg. As Peter Schweizer, author of the book Throw Them All Out wrote, “According to the Department of Energy’s own numbers … In the 1705 government-backed-loan [green energy] program, $16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted … went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers—individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice lied about the events surrounding the Benghazi massacre. Hillary Clinton, the only First Lady to have been the subject of a grand jury investigation, is a regular visitor to our Most Corrupt list, while this is a first-time appearance for Ms. Rice.
One day after the attack, on September 12, 2012, Sec. Clinton said the following: “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear — there is no justification for this, none.” She then joined President Obama in taping a television ad apologizing to the Muslim world for the obscure video, spending a reported $70,000 in taxpayer funds on the ad buys.
And then Rice repeated the Benghazi lie, over and over again on every major television news network. Hillary Clinton’s and Rice’s lies about one of the most significant terrorist attacks since 9/11 are, perhaps, the scandal of the year out of this administration. Little wonder that in his October 2012 testimony Eric Nordstrom, a former a top security official in Libya who was criticized for seeking more security in Benghazi, felt compelled to tell the House Oversight Committee that conversations he had with people in Washington led him to believe that it was “abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?”
He said he was so exasperated at one point he told a colleague that “for me the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”
A regular on our annual Top Ten Corrupt list, Holder shamelessly operates the most blatantly politicized Department of Justice (DOJ) in a generation. And, with the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, it is no exaggeration that his agency has blood on its hands.
Fast and Furious was a reckless DOJ/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gun-running” scheme in which guns were sold to Mexican drug cartels and others, apparently in the hope that the guns would end up at crime scenes. Well, they did – and it appears that the guns were involved in the deaths of hundreds of Mexican citizens, as well as the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in a shootout with Mexican criminals in December 2010. On December 5, 2012, CBS News reported that 17 DOJ and ATF officials had been faulted in an Inspector General investigation of the Fast and Furious scandal. But, the man at the top remains unscathed, even after becoming the first attorney general in history to be cited for criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to divulge documents about DOJ lies to Congress about Fast and Furious.
Every day that Eric Holder remains at the helm, the Department of Justice sinks further into the abyss of cronyism, corruption, and deceit. And it is well past time for him to go.
On November 21, 2012, Rep. Jesse Jackson resigned from Congress in disgrace, acknowledging in his statement that he had made his “share of mistakes.” This may well be the understatement of year. Jackson has been under federal investigation for alleged campaign finance improprieties, including reportedly using donor dollars to remodel his home and purchase personal gifts, a potential criminal violation. Add to that the fact that Jackson was one of the major figures implicated in the massive scandal involving jailed former Illinois Governor Rod “Blago” Blagojevich, who was brought to justice in 2011 for a number of crimes, including his efforts to “sell” President Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. The evidence strongly suggests Jackson was one of those bidders.
Because Jackson refused to resign before the November elections, Illinois taxpayers will now be faced with costs of a special election: estimated to cost $5.1 million.
The late great Chicago newspaperman Mike Royko famously said that the official motto of Chicago should be “Ubi Est Mea — Where’s mine?” Clearly, Jackson and his cohorts have taken this motto to heart.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) joins the Judicial Watch’s list of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians for 2012” in what might be considered a sort of “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
As far back as 2007, Sen. Menendez was investigated by a federal grand jury for illegally steering lobbying business to his former chief of staff Kay LiCausi, with whom he was also romantically linked. In just a few years, her firm reported $1.3 million in business with nearly $300,000 coming from a New Jersey medical center that was later awarded government funding thanks to a push from her former boss and lover.
In 2010, Menendez and his colleague in corruption, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), allocated $8 million for a public walkway and park space adjacent to upscale, waterfront condos built by a developer whose executives have donated generously to their political campaigns. The veteran legislators have received about $100,000 in contributions from the developer, according to federal election records. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the developer’s Washington D.C. lobbyist was a longtime senior aide to Menendez.
And to top it all off, in October 2012, The Daily Caller broke the story that two women from the Dominican Republic claimed that the senator had procured their services while on Spring Break at the luxurious Casa de Campo. Then in mid-December, the Associated Press revealed that Menendez employed an illegal immigrant as an unpaid intern in his Senate office who was a registered sex offender.
Were there a “Hall of Fame” for broken promises, here is one that would get in on the first ballot: “Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency” (President Barack Obama, January 21, 2009). Instead of transparency and the rule of law over the past four years, we have witnessed the greatest expansion of government in modern political history and, consequently, an explosion of government secrecy, scandals, and abuses of power. Among the low-lights:
- Illegal recess appointments: Perhaps former Attorney General Ed Meese and Todd Graziano summed it up best in their January 5, 2012, Washington Post guest commentary: “President Obama’s attempt to unilaterally appoint three people to seats on the National Labor Relations Board and Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (after the Senate blocked action on his nomination) is more than an unconstitutional attempt to circumvent the Senate’s advice-and-consent role. It is a breathtaking violation of the separation of powers and the duty of comity that the executive owes to Congress.”
- Illegal immigration: In mid-June, Obama announced that by executive decree – and in apparent violation of his oath of office – his administration would stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. According to The AP, “the policy change … bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan …” Lest anyone doubt that Obama knew he was overriding the law of the land, in March, 2011, he said, “There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President.”
- Unprecedented secrecy: Judicial Watch has had to file almost 1,000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and nearly 100 lawsuits against the Obama administration on issues ranging from Obamacare to the continued funding of the criminal ACORN network; from tracking Wall Street bailout money to the unconstitutional use of czars; to White House visitor logs; to the attacks on the integrity of our nation’s elections. This president touts transparency but condones law-breaking of open records laws by his administration.
- Unconstitutional czars: As far back as 2009, Reuters reported, “Name a top issue and President Barack Obama has probably got a ‘czar responsible for tackling it.” By the time the Judicial Watch Special Report President Obama’s Czars was published in October 2011, the number of Obama czars had skyrocketed to 45. Largely unconfirmed by and unaccountable to the Senate, many of Obama’s czars are often outside the reach of FOIA. Some of these czars exercise unprecedented and unconstitutional control over major aspects of government policy and programs. And a number of the czars have been linked to scandals, thefts and kickbacks, flagrant and offensive statements, conflicts of interest, and radical leftist political ideologies and policies.
- Use of Executive Privilege to protect Eric Holder: On June 20, 2012, Barack Obama acquiesced to a plea from Attorney General Eric Holder and asserted “executive privilege” to protect the Attorney General from being prosecuted for failing to provide Congress with Fast and Furious documents. On March 22, 2011, when asked by aUnivision TV if he had been informed of the Holder gunrunning program, Obama bluntly stated, “Absolutely not. This is a pretty big government, the United States government. I’ve got a lot of moving parts.” So, as Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Fox News, “They can’t have it both ways. If the President was not personally involved, executive privilege does not apply.” To this day, President Obama refuses to detail the specific documents he is withholding from Congress.
The list could go on ad infinitum – with Benghazigate, bailouts, abusing the perks of office for luxury vacations for his family, and, of course, his personal involvement in the Solyndra scandal. But the bottom line is this: The federal government under Barack Obama is off the rails and out of control. And now, with Obama having been given the “flexibility” of a second term, it can only be expected to get worse.
A July 30, 2012, headline in the Las Vegas Review-Journal alerted Nevadans to Sen. Harry Reid’s latest influence-peddling scandal – this one involving ENN Energy Group, a Chinese “green energy” client of the Nevada law firm of which Reid’s son, Rory, is a principal.
As Reuter’s reported on August 31, 2012, “Reid has been one of the project’s most prominent advocates, helping recruit the company during a 2011 trip to China and applying his political muscle on behalf of the project in Nevada. His son, a lawyer with a prominent Las Vegas firm that is representing ENN, helped it locate a 9,000-acre (3,600-hectare) desert site that it is buying well below appraised value from Clark County, where Rory Reid formerly chaired the county commission.”
“Well below appraised value” is a considerable understatement. The deal Rory Reid put together for the firm his dad brought to town saw ENN purchase the site for just $4.5 million – a mere fraction of separate appraisals that valued the property at $29.6 million and $38.6 million. Even with all of that, however, the project has failed to move forward as rapidly as Harry and Rory Reid would like – for the simple reason that there is currently no market in Nevada for the green energy ENN claims it could produce.
But, of course, funneling money to the Reid family is nothing new for the Senate Majority Leader. As the Washington Postreported in a February 7, 2012, story titled “Public projects, private interests:”
In 2004 and 2005, the Senate majority leader secured $21.5 million to build a bridge over the Colorado River, linking the gambling resort town of Laughlin, Nev., with Bullhead City, Ariz. Reid owns 160 acres of undeveloped land in Bullhead City.
And according to Peter Schweizer, writing for Fox News on December 12, 2012, “Sen. Reid has sponsored at least $47 million in earmarks that directly benefitted organizations that one of his sons, Key Reid, [RW1] either lobbies for or is affiliated with.
Needless to say, the well-entrenched Sen. Reid has been a repeat Top Ten offender.
On October 24, 2012, the Florida ethics commission found “probable cause” that Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) had committed 11 violations of state ethics laws during his time in the Florida legislature. This comes amidst reports that Rivera remains under federal investigation over his personal and campaign finances. And, in a separate matter, the congressman is under investigation by the FBI for secretly funding the campaign of Justin Lamar Sternad, a candidate running against Joe Garcia in the Democratic primary earlier this year. Garcia defeated Rivera in the November election.
The “probable cause” findings stem from an investigation by the FBI and the IRS regarding Rep. Rivera’s dealings with the Flagler Dog Track, now known as the Magic City Casino. The basis for the investigation relates to payments reportedly totaling as much as $1 million made by the casino to Millennium Marketing in the guise of a consulting contract. Most of the money is said to have been paid in 2008. Millennium Marketing is owned by Rivera’s mother and godmother, and Rivera supposedly benefited from the arrangement, and is thus the subject of a tax evasion inquiry.
For a long time, Rep. Rivera denied ever receiving any income from the dog track, but just before heading to Congress, Rivera admitted receiving $132,000 in “undisclosed loans” from Millennium. He claims he paid the money back. Investigators are also taking a close look at Rivera’s campaign spending, including $75,000 he paid in 2010 “to a now-defunct consulting company owned by the daughter of a top aide.”
On September 12, 2012, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius became the first member of the President’s cabinet in U.S. history to have been found guilty of violating the Hatch Act when she campaigned for the reelection of Barack Obama in her official capacity of Secretary of HHS. According to Politico, “During a speech to the Human Rights Campaign Gala in North Carolina in February, Sebelius . . . outlined the Obama administration’s accomplishments so far and said, ‘One of the imperatives is to make sure that we not only come together here in Charlotte to present the nomination to the president, but we make sure that in November he continues to be president for another four years.’”
After the speech, Sebelius tried to cover her tracks by reclassifying the event from “official” to “political,” and claiming her appearance was in her personal capacity. The scheme didn’t work.
According to the official statement put out by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel: “The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) sent findings to the President today from its investigation of complaints of prohibited political activity by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. OSC concluded that Secretary Sebelius violated the Hatch Act when she made extemporaneous partisan remarks in a speech delivered in her official capacity on February 25, 2012. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election.”
Thoroughly unapologetic, Ms. Sebelius justified her transgression by informing the OSC that she simply “got a little caught up in the notion that the gains which had been made would clearly not continue without the president’s reelection.” In other words, her Obamacare agenda took precedence over the law. Normally, when a government official is found violating the Hatch Act, the punishment is termination. How did President Obama respond? There was no punishment whatsoever.
On May 31, 2012, a jury in the corruption trial of former U.S. Senator from North Carolina and presidential candidate John Edwards said that it could not agree on a verdict for five of six counts, and U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles was forced to declare a mistrial. But, while Edwards may have been partially exonerated (he was acquitted on one count), he was certainly not vindicated.
John Edwards conducted an illicit affair with campaign employee Rielle Hunter that resulted in the birth of their daughter. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Edwards reportedly persuaded his former political aide Andrew Young to claim that he was the father of the child, and not Edwards. The ruse failed and Edwards was forced to admit to the whole sordid mess. The focus then shifted to whether Edwards unlawfully diverted campaign funds to hide the affair.
Edwards denies the claim, but according to witness testimony Hunter and Young received nearly a million dollars in “hush” payments from philanthropist Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Texas billionaire Fred Baron, two campaign donors who did not want to see the scandal derail Edwards’ pursuit of the White House. According to an excellent analysis by Hans Von Spakovsky at the Heritage Foundation, the money paid to Edwards’ mistress was “dishonest, dishonorable, and illegal:”
“Federal law…prohibits the conversion of campaign funds to any personal use (2 U.S.C. §439a). Most important, FEC regulations state that the payment of a personal expense by any person other than the candidate is considered a contribution to the candidate, unless the payment would have been made irrespective of the candidacy (11 CFR 113.1). As the FEC said in a prior advisory opinion (AO 2008-17), the key question is, ‘Would the third party pay the expense if the candidate was not running for Federal office?’”
In short, John Edwards may have eluded the reach of the law. But, in the courtroom of public opinion he remains one of the “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” for 2012.
Though Staten Island’s Rep. Michael Grimm managed to eke out a reelection victory on November 6, it wasn’t because he had failed to supply his opponent with serious issues of campaign corruption. During the race, Grimm was the subject of an FBI investigation into allegations that his 2010 congressional campaign had accepted contributions over the legal limit and from noncitizen donors via Ofer Biton, a former aide to a prominent Israeli rabbi, in exchange for helping Biton obtain a green card.
According to ABC News, “In early 2012, the New York Times reported that Grimm, a devout Catholic and former agent for the FBI, allegedly accepted illegal donations from members of an Upper East Side rabbi’s congregation. Ofer Biton, an Israeli citizen and a top aide to the prominent Orthodox rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, came under investigation by the FBI over allegations that Biton embezzled millions of dollars from the congregation. It is said that while campaigning with Biton, the Grimm campaign collected over $500,000 in campaign contributions.”
According a Gallup Poll, a full 62 per cent of the American people believe that stopping illegal immigration should be a top priority of the U.S. government. Unfortunately for the American people, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is not numbered among that 62%. And she is the person who is supposed to be enforcing the law. Last year, Napolitano opened the floodgates of illegal immigration by having the Department of Homeland Security review all cases then before the immigration courts with an eye towards halting the deportation of many illegal immigrants allegedly with no criminal backgrounds. (JW uncovered records demonstrating this to be an utter lie. Many of the illegals let off the hook were convicted of violent crimes.)
Not satisfied with skirting the law in 2011, Napolitano decided to abandon it altogether in 2012. Accordingly, on June 15, 2012, she announced: “By this memorandum, I am setting forth how, in the exercise of our prosecutorial discretion, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should enforce the Nation’s immigration laws against certain young people who were brought to this country as children and know only this country as home.”
In short, this amounted to blanket “temporary” amnesty for illegals under the age of 30. With her single statement, she simply declared upwards of one million illegal aliens entirely legal. Just like that. No legislation. No debate. No votes. No court rulings. The Constitution of the United States notwithstanding. And, in so doing, she violated the Oath of Office she had taken when sworn in as secretary of Homeland Security on January 21, 2009: “I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
General Petraeus was forced to resign after news leaked of his long-term extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, a writer and military analyst who penned a Petraeus biography. Compounding the scandal are questions involving whether Petraeus’ mistress had improper access to classified information from the nation’s top spy. At the University of Denver on July 28, Broadwell said, “I had access to everything, it was my experience not to leak it, not to violate my mentor, if you will.”
There is also a major question about whether Petraeus misled Congress about the Benghazi attack in his initial congressional testimony. On September 14, just days after the attack on the consulate, Petraeus briefed congressional intelligence leaders, reportedly telling them he believed the attack was spontaneous and not carefully pre-planned. Yet on Friday, November 16, in private hearings before Senate and House intelligence committees, Petraeus changed his story. According to Fox News: “Petraeus’ testimony both challenges the Obama administration’s repeated claims that the attack was a “spontaneous” protest over an anti-Islam video, and according to [New York Rep. Peter] King conflicts with his own briefing to lawmakers on Sept. 14. Sources have said Petraeus, in that briefing, also described the attack as a protest that spun out of control.”
Judicial Watch uncovered evidence that Elizabeth Warren gave false statements under oath regarding Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) activities when she served as the agency’s interim director. According to the records, Warren and the CFPB were intimately involved in brokering a 50-state settlement underway with the nation’s largest mortgage lenders related to alleged improper foreclosure procedures. This evidence seems to contradict Warren’s statements before Congress suggesting her office responded to requests for advice, but did not seek to push its views.
During a March 16, 2011, hearing of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, Ms. Warren downplayed her agency’s involvement in the state settlement negotiations: “We have been asked for advice by the Department of Justice, by the Secretary of the Treasury, and by other federal agencies. And when asked for advice, we have given our advice.”
But this does not come close to telling the full story.
Emails obtained by Judicial Watch from several states suggest her agency’s participation was far more intense and aggressive. Warren called emergency meetings by phone and in person with attorneys general nationwide to contribute unsolicited input on the matter. The documents also indicate that Warren’s office insisted on keeping its contact with the state attorneys general secret. For example, in a February 25, 2011, email to the Executive Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Iowa Assistant Attorney General Patrick Madigan wrote: “Elizabeth Warren would like to present the CFPB’s view on loan modifications.” Two weeks earlier, a similar email was distributed to NAAG’s Loss Mitigation Subgroup on Warren’s behalf. In an email on February 15 regarding that meeting, Madigan points out that “The CFPB wanted me to stress the confidential nature of this briefing.”
In early December, Democrats chose the scandal-plagued Rep. Maxine Waters to be the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee despite her many transgressions over the years. The influential congresswoman has helped family members make more than $1 million through business ventures with companies and causes that she has helped, according to her hometown newspaper.
In August 2010, Waters’ influence peddling earned the attention of a subcommittee of the House Ethics Committee which charged Rep. Waters with three counts of violating House rules and ethics regulations in connection with her use of power and influence on behalf of OneUnited Bank. After a highly controversial investigation, plagued by accusations of impropriety and corruption, on September 12, the committee failed to hold Waters to account for steering a $12 million to OneUnited, in which she and her board member husband held shares.
The Financial Services Committee, among other responsibilities, has jurisdiction over all issues pertaining to; you guessed it, the banking system.