Three years ago, we reported on videos produced by the General Services Administration (GSA) that show senior GSA officials and staff participating in costumed playacting and parodies.
Here’s a flavor: The Rocky Jog – With the Rocky movie theme blaring in the background, senior GSA officials lead employees on an extended jog through the corridors of the GSA’s New York office and the streets of Manhattan. The jog is initiated by Ben Kochanski, deputy regional commissioner, GSA Public Buildings Service, whose 2012 salary was $141,066. Kochanski is then joined by Joanna Rosato, regional commissioner of GSA Public Buildings Service, whose 2012 salary was $164,500. Many additional GSA employees then join these two senior officials.
Remember: The GSA touts itself as an “innovation engine” that helps the government cut costs.
It now appears that the GSA did not like our meddling in their fun.
The Washington Times recently highlighted a report by the GSA’s inspector general concerning the GSA’s attempt to strip away our status as a member of the media and to force us to pay exorbitant fees for records:
The GSA botched several high-profile open records requests, delaying them for months while political appointees got involved, Inspector General Carol F. Ochoa said. The findings were released while the administration was facing charges of slow-walking open records requests for Hillary Clinton’s emails, as well as other requests.
In the case of Judicial Watch, the order to strip it of media status came from political operatives with long ties to Democratic causes — and even from the White House.
The inspector general said the decision came at the behest of Gregory Mecher, a former Democratic campaign fundraiser who at the time was liaison to the White House. He is married to Jen Psaki, a longtime spokeswoman with the Obama administration and its election campaigns.
Ms. Ochoa said stripping Judicial Watch of media status violated several agency policies and things got worse when the GSA denied an appeal by the group.
The IG report was finalized last year but only released the week before last! It was all politically motivated. Surprised?
Making matters even worse, it appears that political revenge was behind the GSA/Obama White House attack on Judicial Watch.
We obtained those videos three years ago, thanks to a June 15, 2012, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking videos produced by GSA’s Northeast Region (known as Region 2) from 2011 through June 2012. Because the agency failed to timely respond to our FOIA request, we filed a lawsuit on May 23, 2013 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. General Services Administration (No. 1:13-cv-00755)).
And we won. The court even forced the GSA to reimburse us for expenses.
As I told The Washington Times, the GSA’s response is outrageous, but not surprising. Welcome to our world. This is what we put up with all the time from the agencies. And we have to ask why White House liaisons are involved in our FOIA request. Judicial Watch apparently is on the Obama administration’s enemies’ list.
The OIG report notes it took nearly a year for the GSA to provide the videos to us, despite the average FOIA response time being about 60 days. On top of that, GSA political operatives snooped around our Internet website and then took away our media status, even though, as it says in the report, “GSA had granted Judicial Watch press status in the past, most recently for a FOIA request made less than two weeks before.”
Judicial Watch was alerted to the existence of these videos by its client Linda Shenwick, a whistleblower in GSA who objected to frivolous expenditures in the GSA’s Region 2, the office that produced the videos. Unbelievably, GSA had a policy of encouraging and rewarding employees who produced and performed in the controversial videos. In further retaliation, Ms. Shenwick has since been demoted and effectively removed from her duties.
Obviously, the Obama administration did not let the rule of law get in the way of abusing its office to target whistleblowers and Judicial Watch. Just as obvious is the fact that transparent lawlessness in the Clinton-era State Department is but one example of the Obama administration’s war against the American people’s right to know.