Judicial Watch continues to monitor the activities of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), an “international agreement” between the United States, Mexico, and Canada with the expressed goal of “a safer, more prosperous North America.” (Some critics, of course, think the partnership could ultimately compromise U.S. national sovereignty.)
Last week, we filed a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez for denying Judicial Watch access to meetings and records of the North American Competitiveness Council. The council consists of “high level business leaders,” and serves in an advisory capacity to the United States, Mexican, and Canadian governments through the auspices of the SPP. The mission of the council, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce is “to provide recommendations and priorities on promoting North American competitiveness globally.” The council has already provided over 50 recommendations for action to Secretary Gutierrez and the SPP.
Why do we want access to council meetings and records?
Because the North American Competitiveness Council is part of the government’s SPP process, which actively considers policies that dramatically impact the lives of all Americans. It should not be allowed to operate in secret.
Why do we deserve access to council meetings and records?
Because, according to a federal law known as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, any entity organized to advise officers of the federal government, including the president, must make its proceedings open and available to the public. Specifically, the law requires that interested persons be able to attend meetings and file statements with the advisory committee and that documents be made available through the Freedom of Information Act.
On July 26, Judicial Watch notified Secretary Gutierrez that it sought access to North American Competitiveness Council and its U.S. component subcommittee meetings and records. Judicial Watch’s request was ignored.
Now, Judicial Watch is asking the court to issue an emergency temporary restraining order, mandating that Judicial Watch be allowed to attend the next North American Competitiveness Council meeting to be held on August 20-21 in Montebello, Quebec, Canada in conjunction with the SPP summit.
To read the lawsuit, and to review documents pertaining to Judicial Watch’s investigation of the North American Competitiveness Council and the Security and Prosperity Partnership, visit Judicial Watch’s Internet site, (http://www.judicialwatch.org.)
Fairfax County, VA, Pulls Funding from Herndon Day Labor Site
Good news and a Judicial Watch victory last week regarding the illegal day labor site that has been operating in Herndon, Virginia. Fairfax County announced that it will pull its funding from the site. This according to the Fairfax County Times:
“Fairfax County has terminated its financial contract with Reston Interfaith, managers of the Herndon Official Workers Center, according to county officials. The contract currently provides $175,000 in annual funding for the controversial day labor center's operation.”
Apparently, last month, Herndon’s Vice Mayor Dennis Husch chastised the county for funding the illegal day labor site, which has “outraged the citizens of Herndon,” in a letter to State Attorney General Bob McDonnell.
"We thought we were doing something that the town wanted, and we don't want even the perception of interfering with the town's prerogative,” responded Fairfax County Chairman Gerry Connolly. “If they don't want us doing it, then we shouldn't be. If they want to pursue other vendors, then they can."
As you no doubt recall, Judicial Watch has been involved in the battle over the Herndon day labor site from the very beginning. We sued the Town of Herndon and Fairfax County Virginia on behalf of taxpayers to shut it down.
Ultimately, following Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, the voters of Herndon bounced from elected office virtually every town official who supported the site. In January, the newly constituted Herndon Town Council voted 6-1 in support of a “request for proposal” seeking a new company to manage the Town’s day labor site. According to the new proposal, unlike the current site operator (Reston Interfaith) the new company will be required to “ensure that every worker using the agency’s services is legally eligible to work in the United States and shall grant the Town of Herndon permission to periodically monitor for compliance with this.”
The new site operator has not yet been put in place. However, it appears the recent decision by Fairfax County may accomplish the objective just the same.
Without the county funding, the Fairfax County Times reports “it is unlikely that Reston Interfaith could continue to mange the center under the guidelines required by the town.”
So, Judicial Watch’s lawsuit on behalf of local taxpayers led to the Town Council’s changing its tune on the way the day labor site is run, which in turn led to the pulling of funding by the county. These are victories for our citizen clients and other Americans who are tired of local governments undermining and violating federal immigration law.
Let’s hope this is true. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on all of this. In the meantime, Judicial Watch’s lawsuit remains in court.
Flawed Court Ruling Claims Jefferson Raid Illegal
On Friday, August 3, a federal appeals court ruled that the FBI’s search of Louisiana Democratic Rep. William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson’s Capitol Hill office last year was unconstitutional because the FBI reviewed and seized “privileged legislative documents.”
According to the ruling: “The Congressman is entitled to the return of documents that the court determines to be privileged.”
By way of review, the raid occurred during a 16-month federal corruption investigation of Jefferson, who allegedly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for brokering business deals in Africa. Jefferson was caught on tape accepting a $100,000 bribe from an FBI informant. A subsequent FBI search of Jefferson’s home uncovered $90,000 stuffed in Jefferson’s freezer (giving new meaning to the term “cold hard cash”).
As you may recall, Judicial Watch filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the case supporting the FBI raid. As we explained in the brief, which is available on our Internet site, (http://www.judicialwatch.org:)
“Congressman Jefferson has failed to demonstrate that the actions under scrutiny by federal law enforcement officials and the records sought by the search warrant fall within the ‘legitimate legislative sphere.’ Consequently, the privileges of the Speech or Debate Clause do not apply here…All of the actions allegedly taken by Congressman Jefferson were allegedly for the sole purpose of using his status as a U.S. Congressman to solidify a business venture in which he stood to make millions of dollars. Such actions are anything but official.”
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed, in part, with this line of reasoning. I read the ruling to potentially allow congressmen to conceal criminal activity so long as they are careful to hide incriminating evidence in their congressional offices. A jubilant Robert Trout, Jefferson’s lawyer, said the court decision clearly shows that every member of Congress has an “absolute right to review his records first and shield legislative material from review.''
In other words, according to this interpretation, the only search that the court would have allowed was one that enabled Jefferson to cherry pick those files federal authorities had a right to see. (Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse!)
Among those pleased with the appeals court decision: Nancy Pelosi. This is the same Nancy Pelosi who promised to clean up the “Republican culture of corruption” following her ascension to House Speaker earlier this year. (Among Pelosi’s first official acts as Speaker, by the way, was to award Jefferson a coveted seat on the Homeland Security panel.)
The federal appeals court ruling was flawed. The Justice Department should appeal, or risk allowing Capitol Hill to turn into a “law enforcement free zone.”