In his book, The Corruption Chronicles, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton describes an incident after he and his associates met with Elizabeth Warren in 2011 to discuss transparency issues concerning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and its lack of oversight.
After the meeting, an attendee referring to Fitton and his associates, said, “that’s the last time we invite the black hats.”
“Only in corrupt Washington are you a ‘black hat’ for confronting government officials,” Fitton writes in the best-selling book that has rocketed up the non-fiction bestseller charts. It is No. 1 on Nielsen’s BookScan, No. 2 on the Washington Post’s bestseller list, and No. 6 on the New York Times bestseller list.
For conservatives and Tea Partiers, Judicial Watch has been one of the “white hats” because it has had the right enemies -- establishment Democrats and Republicans who value secrecy over transparency.
In 1994, the media and institutional landscape were hostile toward conservatives. The Drudge Report was not in existence nor were blogs and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh was on the rise but nowhere near as influential as he would be later. And institutions and think tanks were dominated by liberals.
That year, Judicial Watch, the government watchdog group, formed to “fight for transparency, honesty, accountability, and integrity in government, politics, and the law." The group sought to unearth the truth in Bill Clinton's secretive administration. Immediately, the scrappy grassroots group had an impact, helping impeach President Bill Clinton.
Nearly 20 years later, the institutional playing field has tilted against liberals and the mainstream media, that acted as corrupt gatekeepers. The contributions Judicial Watch regularly makes to the political debate -- unearthing key documents regarding Solyndra, General Motors, Obamacare, immigration and voter fraud during Obama’s administration alone -- is a testament to how far Judicial Watch has come. Unlike others who came to Washington in 1994 to change Washington and were changed by Washington, Judicial Watch has retained the same scrappiness it had when it first formed.
The Corruption Chronicles: Obama's Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government is a book that outlines the actions of the Obama administration that make it one of the most corrupt and secretive ever. Many of the cases discussed became prominent national stories because Judicial Watch uncovered key documents and acted as the proverbial rays of sunlight. Some of those cases deal with White House visitor logs, Fast and Furious, Obama’s czars, waivers given to political allies, taxpayer monies being used to promote Obamacare and funding failing green energy companies like Solyndra and bailing out General Motors, and targeting political enemies.
But the book is at the top of bestseller lists not just because people want to read the about corruption. The book also takes a look at future threats -- like voter fraud -- and Judicial Watch has the credibility, more than other right-leaning or nonpartisan group, because it held the Bush administration’s feet to the fire as much as it did Obama’s.
The Tea Party, in part, bubbled up because it was as frustrated with the domestic policies of the Bush administration as much as it was with Obama’s, and Judicial Watch has been one of the few groups that has shared the Tea Party’s ethos of accountability, of holding both establishment Democrats and Republicans accountability for their lack of transparency.
“The media is a lapdog not only to President Obama but to the oblivious political class whose idea of 'ethics' wouldn’t allow a normal person to sleep at night,” Fitton writes.
Because the media was in the tank for Obama, they missed many signs from his past that were harbingers of how he would act as president.
Fitton discusses Obama’s associations with infamous Chicago figures like Tony Rezko and Jeremiah Wright. He details then-Senator Obama’s earmarks -- such as the one for a Botanical Garden in Illinois managed by a fundraiser of his -- that rewarded his political cronies and patrons. He notes how the Obama campaign’s all-out attack on “Joe the Plumber” would be a harbinger of attacks on Fox News and donors to Republicans
Radical Chicago politics have always been the hallmark of Obama’s administration, and this was the most evident during the Obamacare debate.
Judicial Watch, in October of 2009, recovered an e-mail exchange between then-deputy solicitor general Neal Katyal and none other than Elena Kagan, who would later become a Supreme Court Justice who refused to recuse herself from the Obamacare case.
In the e-mails Judicial Watch unearthed, Katyal wrote to Kagan, “We just got [Senator Olympia] Snowe on health care.”
In March of 2010, in another e-mail uncovered by Judicial Watch, Kagan wrote to Laurence Tribe, the Harvard professor who once taught Supreme Court Justice John Roberts and one of President Barack Obama’s earliest supporters, “I hear they have the votes Larry!! Simply amazing . . .”
Tribe responded, “so healthcare is basically done! Remarkable.”
Judicial Watch also uncovered documents that showed “Obama also shamelessly helped those who supported this hostile takeover of the nation’s health-care system,” such as AARP and other entities that could profit from Obamacare or waivers. Judicial Watch, as Fitton describes extensively in the book, obtained documentation that Obama used taxpayer monies to wage a propaganda campaign for “their hostile takeover of health care.”
Obama’s plan to transform America extends also to immigration.
On immigration, Fitton writes that Obama -- like with health care -- is “trying to play at moderation in public while secretly pushing radicalism.”
And the administration’s politics were evident when Judicial Watch uncovered documents in the National Labor Relations Board’s case against Boeing in which “NLRB attorneys come off as juvenile politicos rather than professionals interested in arbitrating a labor dispute.”
Fitton writes the NLRB emails showed “the Obama administration’s utter contempt for congressional oversight” and “that the NRLB thinks it is above the law.”
Judicial Watch also sued the Bush Administration and took them to the Supreme Court. They weere resoundingly criticized by some on the right, but Judicial Watch held a Republican administration to account before it was popular to do so, especially since, at the time, Republicans controlled all three branches of government.
“Judicial Watch took some flak from some of our conservative friends for opposing the Bush administration over this secret task force,” Fitton writes in the book. “The lesson out of all this for liberals who hate Bush and conservatives who are critical of Obama is, as always, that Big Government, Big Secrecy, and Big Corruption work together, hand in hand.”
Going forward, Judicial Watch is pressing the administration for documents concerning the Fast and Furious case and is monitoring ACORN and voter fraud.
Fitton details how in the summer of 2011, Judicial Watch uncovered documents that found Obama appointees were violating the Defund ACORN Act by sending nearly $80,000 in grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is headed by former Chicago ACORN ally Shaun Donovan, to a renamed ACORN affiliate called “Affordable Housing Centers of America.”
The organization is monitoring the collusion between key members of Project Vote and the Justice Department as well and Fitton notes that “when it comes to vindicating the rule of law, Judicial Watch will try to to do the job” others will not do.
“If Clinton and Bush both touted their dedication to ‘open government’ President Obama has made it his personal mission to push that he is transparent and accountable while doing everything in his power to prevent both transparency and accountability,” Fitton writes.
Fitton notes that since the beginning of the Obama administration, “we have filed well over eight hundred requests for information and over seventy-five lawsuits seeking enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act.”
“We’d file more but we have only so many lawyers,” Fitton writes in the book.
Likewise, it seems like Fitton just ran out of pages and could have detailed a lot more of Judicial Watch's findings and the cases Judicial Watch is looking into.
Regardless of which party wins the presidency in November, Judicial Watch will hold them accountable, and Fitton will probably be able to write another book.
The Corruption Chronicles details many of Judicial Watch's greatest accomplishments, but it has the feel of a prologue of an organization that is just getting started and has a lot more successes in its future.