December 3, 2010
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
JW Exposes Obamacare Propaganda
According to a new Judicial Watch investigation, the Obama administration spent millions of taxpayer dollars on a “misleading” propaganda campaign to help foster public support for its extremely unpopular “health care reform” law, also known as Obamacare.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, our investigators obtained documents from the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding a series of three Medicare television advertisements featuring actor Andy Griffith, which were deemed misleading by a number of press outlets, including the nonpartisan (and left-of-center) FactCheck.org.
The new documents show the Obama administration spent $3,184,000 in taxpayer funds to produce and air the advertisements on national television in September and October of 2010 to educate “Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and family members about forthcoming changes to Medicare as a result of the Affordable Care Act.”
Pamela Gentry, the Director of Strategic Research and Campaign Management Group, Office of External Affair and Beneficiary Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (doesn’t that job title say it all!) described the program to us as follows:
Mr. Griffith is featured in three Medicare television ads and provided his services to the government at no charge pursuant to a gratuitous services agreement. These three spots, “1965,” “Music to My Ears,” and “Cozy Chair,” are only airing in September and October 2010. The production for the three advertisements cost $404,000; the total amount budgeted for the national media placement is $2.78 million, which breaks down per ad to $754,000 (“1965”), $1,112,000 (“Music to My Ears”), and $1,390,000 (“Cozy Chair”).
In press statements touting the new Griffith advertising program the Obama White House described its purpose: “The Affordable Care Act [Obamacare] will strengthen the health care system for all Americans, but senior citizens in particular stand to benefit from the new law. And the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is getting a little help delivering the good news from a well-known TV star: Andy Griffith.”
Not true says FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. According to the organization’s analysis, the advertisements intentionally misinform the American people:
Would the sheriff of Mayberry mislead you about Medicare? Alas, yes. In a new TV spot from the Obama administration, actor Andy Griffith, famous for his 1960s portrayal of the top law enforcement official in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., touts benefits of the new health care law. Griffith tells his fellow senior citizens, ‘like always, we’ll have our guaranteed [Medicare] benefits.’ But the truth is that the new [Obamacare] law is guaranteed to result in benefit cuts for one class of Medicare beneficiaries — those in private Medicare Advantage plans.
And here’s another interesting twist in this emerging scandal.
The new documents also show that the public relations firm Porter Novelli produced the advertising campaign. One of these documents lists the Porter Novelli staff involved in producing the advertisements and details that former Obama campaign spokesperson Catherine “Kiki” McLean contributed 21 hours of her time to the project.
Porter Novelli’s website notes McLean served as a “senior adviser to the Hillary Clinton for President campaign and appeared as an on-air surrogate for the Obama for America campaign.” (The campaigns of John Kerry and Al Gore are also listed on her resume.) She is currently the Senior Partner, Global Head of Public Affairs, and Managing Director for Porter Novelli.
In other words, McLean is a long-time Democratic PR spin master and an Obama insider. And it looks like she was intimately involved in the contract for these misleading ads.
At a time when the government desperately needs to tighten its belt, taxpayers and principled members of Congress should be outraged that the Obama administration has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on this propaganda campaign. As I said in my statement to the press on the issue, “Even Barney Fife would see that these Obamacare ads are bogus.”
JW Sues Homeland Security for Documents on Illegal Alien Who Killed Virginia Nun in Drunk Driving Accident
Why did the federal government allow a repeat criminal illegal alien scheduled for deportation to roam free in the United States for almost two years? Ultimately this illegal alien killed a nun in a drunk driving accident.
The Obama Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which conducted an investigation of the outrage, surely has all of the answers. But they’re not telling.
For this reason JW filed a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on December 2, 2010, against the DHS to obtain documents related to its internal investigation of Carlos Martinelly-Montano, an illegal alien who struck and killed a Virginia nun in a drunk driving accident on August 1, 2010. Montano had been arrested on two prior drunk driving charges. He was placed in the custody of federal immigration officials all the way back in 2008 and was scheduled for deportation, but was released on his own recognizance pending a deportation hearing that never took place.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano huffed and puffed and ordered an investigation the day after the incident to determine why Montano’s removal process took so long. Now, however, the DHS refuses to release a report documenting the results of its probe. As reported in The Washington Post:
The [Montano] inquiry is complete, but Homeland Security does not plan to make the results public, according to the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.
‘It’s a document that includes law enforcement sensitivities, so it will not be made public,’ the official said. He declined to discuss the nature of those sensitivities.
Smelling a cover-up, we quickly requested the Montano report on October 12, 2010. The DHS acknowledged receipt of our request on October 21, 2010, and granted itself a 10-day extension to respond. By law, a response was due to Judicial Watch by November 26, 2010. However, to date, the DHS has failed to provide any records responsive to the request or demonstrate why the records should be withheld, prompting Judicial Watch’s lawsuit.
Montano, who entered the country illegally as a child from Bolivia, killed Sister Denise Mosier and critically injured two other nuns while driving drunk in Prince William County, Virginia. He has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and drunk driving.
In October 2008, Montano was arrested for another drunk driving incident and placed in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. My understanding is that he had at least two prior convictions for drunk driving. He was scheduled for deportation. However, Montano’s deportation hearing was delayed three times and never happened.
Importantly, the Obama administration has ordered federal immigration agents to focus deportation efforts on illegal aliens suspected of terrorist activity and those convicted of violent crimes. (This new policy was announced in a June 30, 2010, memo written by Assistant Secretary John Morton.) Unfortunately for the three nuns struck by Montano, this particular illegal alien criminal never made the government’s priority list.
Now we see the deadly consequences of the Obama administration’s decision not to enforce federal immigration laws. The Obama administration’s irresponsible policy led to the death of Sister Mosier and critical injuries to two other nuns.
The DHS’s refusal to release the results of its investigation of Montano is a cover-up. And once again, Judicial Watch must now go to court to force the “transparent” Obama administration to follow the open records law.
I’ll have more for you on this Judicial Watch investigation as events warrant.
Will Republicans Take a Hatchet to the Office of Congressional Ethics?
As we’ve seen over the last few months, the House ethics process is finally moving forward. It’s not functioning perfectly, as demonstrated by the ridiculously lenient censure punishment recommended by the Ethics Committee for Rep. Charles Rangel, but at least the House appears to be taking the issue of ethics more seriously. (Rangel was “censured” yesterday by a vote of 333-79. Click here for a roll of the vote to see how your representative voted.)
But is all of this progress about to come crashing to a halt? Check out this ABC News article published just after Election Day:
The ethics of House members are frequently used as a punchline. Or a headline. This week, it was Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-NY, on trial. In coming weeks, it will be Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. Their alleged wrongdoings were among many investigated and uncovered by the Office of Congressional Ethics.
But the future of that office is in question. Despite publicly promising more transparency and disclosure of the inner workings of Congress, behind closed doors, the GOP leadership has made moves indicating the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) may be targeted for cuts or extinction.
According to an email seen by ABC News, Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., called the OCE on Friday, Nov. 5, just three days after the midterm elections in which Republicans regained a majority and control of the House. During that phone conversation, ABC’s source said, the California representative asked for justification of its continued existence.
(By way of review, the OCE is the entity charged with reviewing ethics complaints and referring those deemed legitimate to the House Committee on Standards for Official Conduct, also known as the House Ethics Committee.)
So Rep. Dreier wants a justification for the existence of an Office of Congressional Ethics? Here’s the justification: Charles Rangel, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Lewis, Maxine Waters, Barney Frank, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Don Young, John Conyers. Need I go on? For decades, members of Congress abided by an “ethics truce,” agreeing not to file or investigate ethics complaints against each other. The result? Rampant corruption on Capitol Hill that has eroded public confidence in the institution. (See Election Day.) The American people want more ethics, not less.
And here’s another justification. The Office of Congressional Ethics is working! If you take a look at this chart, produced by Public Citizen, you’ll see that disciplinary actions for members of Congress more than doubled over the previous two year period after the Office of Congressional Ethics was established.
That is the reason some in Congress want to see it undermined or abolished. After all, as ABC News pointed out, “two members of the GOP transition team were previously investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics: Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the likely GOP Conference chair, and John Campbell, R-Calif.” Hensarling, as ABC notes, was cleared of all charges, while Campbell is still under investigation by the House Ethics Committee.
Is the Office of Congressional Ethics working a little too well for some tastes in Congress?
As you may recall, Judicial Watch was an active participant in the ethics reform process on Capitol Hill. I testified before a congressional hearing held by the Special Taskforce on Ethics Enforcement calling for an independent ethics enforcement entity to help clean up corruption in Congress. The net result of this process was the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics. Has the ethics process worked perfectly? Not even close. But it has improved. And the last thing we need is any effort that would undermine or weaken it.
The man leading the GOP transition, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), has said no firm decisions have been made with respect to the future of the Office of Congressional Ethics. “We’re not focused in on the ethics side of things at all,” Walden said on ABC’s “Top Line” on Monday.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a very troubling sign.
That’s why Judicial Watch joined with a number of other government watchdog organizations — from both the Left and the Right — on Thursday to hold a press conference on Capitol Hill focusing on protecting the Office of Congressional Ethics. I told the assembled press:
For too long, the House ethics process was broken and in desperate need of reform.
That’s why a few years ago Judicial Watch joined other public interest groups who were all concerned that politicians obey the law and, as importantly, be accountable to it.
This led to Judicial Watch working closely with Speaker Pelosi’s Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement to push for an independent body to help handle ethics investigations of House members.
The outgoing Democratic majority created the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) in response to public concerns about the “culture of corruption” in the House of Representatives.
I understand that some Democratic leaders have been unhappy about some of the supposedly strong actions the Office of Congressional Ethics took against members of their caucus. And the Congressional Black Caucus has been especially critical of the attention that the OCE has paid to some of its members [such as Rangel and Maxine Waters].
And I know the Republican leadership never liked the idea of the OCE from the get-go.
So now there is a test for the new Tea Party Congress. Will Republican leaders, with quiet applause from their Democratic colleagues, shut down or weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics — the only major reform to the House ethics process in a generation?
Let me say this — if Republican leaders shut down the OCE, it will send a signal to the American people — and their tea party supporters in particular — that the party of small government is once again on the road to being the party of big corruption.
You can click here to read our coalition’s joint statement. But here’s our message in a nutshell: “The OCE has served citizens, the country and the House as an institution well, and it is an essential element of the House ethics enforcement process. It would be a grave mistake for the new House, with more than 100 new members, to backtrack on congressional ethics.”
I hope you agree the new Congressional leadership should commit itself to finally draining the swamp of corruption that consumes that too much of Washington. Shutting down or weakening the Office of Congressional Ethics would be a terrible mistake and increase the already low public regard for the United States Congress.
Until next week…
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