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Judicial Watch

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Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch
Motto Because no one is above the law!
Formation July 29, 1994
Type 501(c)3
Purpose Government Watchdog
Headquarters 425 Third Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
  • United States of America
Tom Fitton

Judicial Watch is a conservative educational foundation, which, according to its website, "advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people." Judicial Watch uses the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law and other tools to investigate misconduct by government officials and litigation to hold to account politicians and public officials who engage in corrupt activities.[1]


  • History 1
    • Clinton Administration 1.1
    • Bush Administration 1.2
    • Obama Administration 1.3
  • Major Investigations & Lawsuits 2
    • Commerce Dept Trade Mission Scandal 2.1
    • White House Visitor Logs 2.2
    • Operation Neptune Spear 2.3
    • Kennedy Assassination Records 2.4
    • Benghazi 2.5
    • IRS Targeting Scandal 2.6
  • Positions 3
  • Klayman Controversy 4
  • Funding 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Judicial Watch was established in 1994 to promote "transparency, honesty, accountability, and integrity in government, politics, and the law."[2]

Clinton Administration

Founded by conservative attorney Larry Klayman,[3] Judicial Watch came to public attention after filing 18 lawsuits against the administration of Democratic U.S. President Bill Clinton and figures in the Clinton administration. An early lawsuit was filed by Judicial Watch on behalf of the Western Center for Journalism (WCJ) in 1998. The lawsuit alleged a retaliatory audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The WCJ was investigating the death of Clinton deputy White House counsel Vince Foster at the time.[4]

The organization received considerable financial support from prominent Clinton critics, including $7.74 million from conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.[5] This led Clinton administration officials to accuse Judicial Watch of "abusing the judicial system for partisan ends."[6] According to Judicial Watch, Clinton and top Congressional Democrats encouraged the IRS to audit them. In 1998 the IRS sent Judicial Watch an audit letter. Afterwards, in January 1999, a senior IRS official asked them, "What do you expect when you sue the President?"[7][8]

Bush Administration

Judicial Watch's consistent investigations against Democratic figures have led to accusations that the group's lawsuits are focused on being politically motivated to help Republicans rather than enforce the law.[9] However, in July 2003 Judicial Watch joined the environmental organization Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force.[10] After several years of legal wrangling, in May, 2005 an appeals court permitted the Energy Task Force's records to remain secret.[11][12] Judicial Watch called the decision "a defeat for open government" and Chris Farrell of Judicial Watch said the ruling fit the trend of increasing secrecy in the Bush administration.[13] Judicial Watch was involved in a similar legal dispute with Vice President Dick Cheney in 2002 when the group filed a shareholder lawsuit against Halliburton. The lawsuit, which accused Halliburton of accounting fraud, alleged that "when Mr. Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton, he and other directors inflated revenue reports, boosting Halliburton's share price." [14] As reported by the Wall Street Journal the court filing claims the oil-field-services concern overstated revenue by a total of $445 million from 1999 through the end of 2001.[15]

In 2006 Judicial Watch sued the Secret Service to force the release of logs detailing convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff's visits to the White House. This resulted in the release of a number of documents.[16]

Obama Administration

Since President Obama took office on January 20, 2009 his administration has been a major focus of Judicial Watch investigations and lawsuits. Noteworthy and protracted legal battles over the IRS Targeting Scandal, the Benghazi attack, and the Fast & Furious Scandal are of special significance. Since the beginning of the Obama administration, Judicial Watch has filed over 900 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and over 90 lawsuits, including a successful fight over the Obama White House visitor logs and ongoing legal battles over the Fast and Furious scandal.[17] The first legal battle between Judicial Watch and the Obama administration was over access to the White House visitor logs. This resulted in a lawsuit which ultimately forced the Obama administration to begin making public the official logs of visitors to the White House. [18][19]

On September 14, 2015 Judicial Watch held its inaugural "Leadership Summit" in Washington, DC. Judge Andrew Napolitano was the keynote speaker.[20]

Major Investigations & Lawsuits

Commerce Dept Trade Mission Scandal

The scandal involved a scheme by Clinton administration officials to sell seats on taxpayer-funded trade missions in exchange for campaign contributions to the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. In 1995, Judicial Watch, Inc. filed an action in the District Court under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), seeking information from the Department of Commerce (DOC) regarding DOC's selection of participants for foreign trade missions. In May 1995, following a search in response to Judicial Watch's FOIA requests, DOC produced approximately 28,000 pages of nonexempt information and withheld about 1,000 documents as exempt. Disputes arose between the parties over the adequacy of DOC's search, and Judicial Watch charged that some DOC officials had destroyed or removed responsive documents. In December 1998, following discovery, the District Court granted partial summary judgment to Judicial Watch and ordered DOC to perform a new search.[21] During the investigation, Nolanda B. Hill, a business partner of Clinton Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was forced to testify. According to Hill, Brown told her that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was the driving force behind the efforts to raise as much money as possible for President Clinton's reelection and the DNC. And further that, "...companies were being solicited to donate large sums of money in exchange for their selection to participate on trade missions of the Commerce Department." [22]

Secretary Brown died in a plane crash in Croatia on April 2, 1996. He was on a Clinton administration trade mission at the time. Following the Secretary's death a concurrent independent counsel investigation ended.[23] But some including Kweisi Mfume – head of the NAACP at the time and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, had written federal officials to ask for more data on the suspicious circumstances of Brown's death.[24] In February 1998 Judicial Watch also called for an investigation.

In 2006, Judicial Watch was awarded nearly $900,000 in attorney’s fees and costs from the lawsuit related to the Clinton fundraising scandals.[25] The judge noted in his ruling that Judicial Watch's efforts prompted two congressional committees and the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to investigate, and that the Commerce Department thereafter its policy for selecting trade mission participants.[26]

White House Visitor Logs

August 10, 2009 Judicial Watch sent a FOIA request to the US Secret Service asking for the following: "All official visitor logs and/or other records concerning visits made to the White House from January 20, 2009 to present."[27] Judicial Watch was invited to the White House by Norm Eisen, the then special counsel to President Obama. During the meeting, the Obama White House officials asked Judicial Watch to scale back its information request and "expressed the hope that Judicial Watch would publicly praise the Obama administration’s commitment to transparency." However, the White House stated that White House visitor logs are not subject to FOIA.[28][29] In a November 30 follow up letter, Eisen refused to release the visitor logs sought by Judicial Watch and reiterated the Obama administration’s legal position and, citing national security concerns, requested that Judicial Watch "focus and narrow (its) request."[30] Judicial Watch declined to praise the administration and instead filed a FOIA lawsuit on December 7, 2009. In August 2011, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee, ordered the agency to process the group’s data request.[31][32]

A similar Judicial Watch lawsuit forced the

External links

  • Fitton, Tom The Corruption Chronicles: Obama's Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012). ISBN 978-1-4516-7787-4

Further reading

  1. ^ "About Us". Judicial Watch, Inc. 
  2. ^ Fitton, Tom (2014). The Corruption Chronicles.  
  3. ^ a b  
  4. ^ Fitton, Tom (2014). The Corruption Chronicles.  
  5. ^ "Recipients by amounts granted by all Scaife foundations". Media Transparency. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  6. ^ Segal, David (1998-05-30). "Pursuing Clinton Suits Him Just Fine". Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  7. ^ Rush, George; Molloy, Joanna (25 August 2002). "ACE OF A GUY DEALING WITH THE GESTS IS NO 'PARTY'".  
  8. ^ Fitton, Tom (2014). The Corruption Chronicles.  
  9. ^ a b Stephen Lemons. "Richard Mellon Scaife's Cash Pays For Judicial Watch's Ideologically Motivated Lawsuits". Phoenix New Times. 
  10. ^ Bill Moyers Interview with Larry Klayman, Public Broadcasting Service, July 11, 2003.
  11. ^ Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Nat’l Energy Policy Dev. Group, et al., Judicial Watch web site.
  12. ^ Appeals Court Permits Energy Task Force Records to Remain Secret, Judicial Watch press release, May 10, 2005.
  13. ^ "Court backs Cheney on energy meetings". The Boston Globe. May 11, 2005. 
  14. ^ Mark Tran (July 10, 2002). "Fraud lawsuit filed against US vice president". The Guardian. 
  15. ^ THADDEUS HERRICK (July 11, 2002). "A Legal Watchdog Group Sues Cheney, Halliburton for Fraud". Wall Street Journal. 
  16. ^ a b Jack Abramoff Visitor Log PDF
  17. ^ Judicial Watch (August 2, 2012). "Tom Fitton’s New Book THE CORRUPTION CHRONICLES: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government Debuts as No. 1 Best-Selling Nonfiction Hardcover Book in the US" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  18. ^ Mark Tapscott (July 24, 2012). "‘The Corruption Chronicles’ tells the Judicial Watch story you never heard". Washington Examiner. 
  19. ^ Judicial Watch, Inc. v United States Secret Service (DDC December 7, 2009). Text
  20. ^ Judicial Watch (September 10, 2015). "Judicial Watch Announces September 14 Leadership Summit Washington Corruption and the Transparency Crisis" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  22. ^ Edward Walsh (March 24, 1998). "SALE OF TRADE MISSION SPOTS ALLEGED". The Washington Post. 
  23. ^ Jim Mokhiber. "Profiles of Other Clinton Administration Independent Counsels". PBS. Following the Secretary's death in an airplane crash in Croatia on April 2, 1996, the independent counsel investigation ended. 
  24. ^ ROBERT L. JACKSON (December 25, 1997). "Black Leaders Seek Conspiracy Probe in Brown's Death". LA Times. 
  25. ^ Judicial Watch (December 27, 2006). "Judicial Watch Victory: Substantially Prevails in Clinton Scandal FOIA Lawsuit" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  26. ^ Fitton, Tom (2014). The Corruption Chronicles.  
  27. ^ FOIA & FOIA Lawsuit Text PDF
  28. ^
  29. ^ Oversight Testimony
  30. ^ Judicial Watch (December 8, 2009). "Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit against Obama Administration to Obtain White House Visitor Logs" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch, Inc. 
  31. ^ Judicial Watch, Inc. v United States Secret Service, 803 F.Supp.2d IV., 63 (DDC August 17, 2011) (“summary judgment is GRANTED”).
  32. ^ Andrew Zajac (August 30, 2013). "Secret Service Must Produce Some White House Records". Bloomberg. 
  33. ^ Cooper, Helene (May 1, 2011). "Obama Announces Killing of Osama bin Laden". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 
  34. ^ Cohen, Kelly (August 22, 2013). "Judicial Watch demands release of bin Laden death photographs". The Washington Times. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 
  35. ^ a b Judicial Watch (Feb 10, 2014). "Top Pentagon Leader Ordered Destruction of bin Laden Death Photos" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  36. ^ "Top US commander ordered Bin Laden photos purge". RT. Feb 11, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 
  37. ^ Judicial Watch (February 25, 2013). "JW Sues National Archives Challenging the Withholding of RFK Department of Justice Records" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  38. ^ Bender, Bryan (July 12, 2013). "Judicial Watch sues National Archives over sealed Robert Kennedy records at JFK Library". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 25, 2015. 
  39. ^ Anup Kaphle (June 17, 2014). "Timeline: How the Benghazi attacks played out". The Washington Post. 
  40. ^ Candy Crowley (2012-09-16). """State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Transcripts. "Interview with Susan Rice. CNN. 
  41. ^ Judicial Watch (April 29, 2014). "Judicial Watch: Benghazi Documents Point to White House on Misleading Talking Points" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  42. ^ Judicial Watch (April 29, 2014). "Judicial Watch: Benghazi Documents Point to White House on Misleading Talking Points" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  43. ^ Zachary A. Goldfarb (May 10, 2013). "IRS admits targeting conservatives for tax scrutiny in 2012 election". The Washington Post. 
  44. ^ Cheryl K. Chumley (October 15, 2013). "Judicial Watch sues IRS for stonewalling on tea party FOIA". The Washington Times. 
  45. ^ Judicial Watch (October 15, 2013). "Judicial Watch sues IRS for stonewalling on tea party FOIA" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  46. ^ Katie Pavlich (April 16, 2014). "BREAKING: New Emails Show Lois Lerner Was in Contact With DOJ About Prosecuting Tax Exempt Groups". Townhall. 
  47. ^ Robert W. Wood (December 10, 2014). "Obama Justice Department Was Involved In IRS Targeting, Lerner Emails Reveal". Forbes. 
  48. ^ Judicial Watch (April 16, 2014). "JW Obtains IRS Documents Showing Lerner in Contact With DOJ about Potential Prosecution of Tax-Exempt Groups" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  49. ^ Judicial Watch (May 14, 2014). "New Documents Show IRS HQ Control of Tea Party Targeting" (Press release). Washington, DC: Judicial Watch. 
  50. ^ Litigation page, Judicial Watch website.
  51. ^ a b c "About Judicial Watch", Judicial Watch web site.
  52. ^ Fitton, Tom (2014). The Corruption Chronicles.  
  53. ^ Pensacola News Journal: "Senate candidate Klayman to visit area." February 23, 2004.
  54. ^ Timothy Noah, Judicial Watch v. Judicial Watch, Slate, April 28, 2006.
  55. ^ United States District Court for the District of Columbia Civil Action No. 06-670 (Ckk); Larry Klayman, Plaintiff, V. Judicial Watch, Inc., et Al., Defendants; Memorandum Opinion, (December 3, 2007); United States District Court for the District of Columbia Civil Action No. 06-670 (Ckk); Larry Klayman, Plaintiff, V. Judicial Watch, Inc., et Al., Defendants; Memorandum Opinion, (June 25, 2009)
  56. ^ Klayman v. Judicial Watch, Inc., 628 F. Supp.2d 112, 118 (D.D.C. 2009).
  57. ^ Id.
  58. ^ Klayman, 628 F. Supp. 2d at 118.
  59. ^ Klayman v. Judicial Watch, Inc., 661 F. Supp.2d 2, 4 (D.D.C. 2009).
  60. ^ Klayman, 628 F. Supp.2d at 118.
  61. ^ John M. Miller (April 6, 2005). "Foundation’s End The last days of John M. Olin’s conservative fortune". National Review. Retrieved 2012-03-22. 
  62. ^ Kristen Lombardi, Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Rides Again; Hillary haters go wild over campaign finance case, Village Voice, May 17th 2005.
  63. ^ "Battling the Clintons, and each other (Judicial Watch may tie up Peter F. Paul)", The New York Times, March 15, 2005, p. B3.
  64. ^ "Former Donor To Clinton Sues Judicial Watch," Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, February 8, 2007, p.5
  65. ^ Paul v. Judicial Watch, Inc., Civil Action No. 07-00279 (RCL) (D.D.C. Feb. 2, 2009) (memorandum and order granting dismissal with prejudice).


See also

In 2007 former donor Peter F. Paul sued Judicial Watch, accusing it of using his name to raise more than $15 million to support his lawsuit against Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton while doing little to advance his case.[62][63][64] All of Paul’s claims have been dismissed.[65]

Between 1997 and 2002 Judicial Watch received $7,069,500 (unadjusted for inflation) in 19 grants from a handful of foundations. The bulk of this funding came from three foundations – the Sarah Scaife Foundation, The Carthage Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation, Inc., which folded in 2005.[61] As of 2010, the Sarah Scaife Foundation was the group's largest contributor.[9]


Judicial Watch has asserted several claims against Klayman.[58] On October 14, 2009, the Court found that Klayman breached the severance agreement by failing to pay Judicial Watch, $69,358.48 in un-reimbursed personal expenses.[59] The remainder of Judicial Watch’s claims against Klayman, which include additional claims of breaches of the severance agreement and trademark infringement, remain pending before the Court as of October 5, 2010.[60]

[57] The only claims by Klayman that remain pending before the Court consist of allegations that Judicial Watch breached a severance agreement with Klayman.[56] In September 2003, Klayman left the organization to run for the

Klayman Controversy

According to David Corn, Judicial Watch uses litigation as its primary tool.[3]

Judicial Watch is conservative and believes in limited government, individual liberty, the free market, traditional values, and a strong national defense. However, Judicial Watch recognizes that corruption is nonpartisan and nonideological.[52]

  • High standards of ethics and morality in our nation's public life;[51]
  • Conservative goals of accountability and openness in government through freedom of information legislation;[51] and
  • Increasing public awareness of corruption and misconduct by government officials;[51]

The bulk of Judicial Watch's cases involve transparency in government and government integrity, and the organization has taken positions on a wide range of issues.[50] Judicial Watch supports:


[49] On May 10, 2013

IRS Targeting Scandal

However, other emails uncovered by the Judicial Watch investigation show that the State Department and administration officials knew otherwise. The truth seemed to be that the 2012 attack on the US compound in Benghazi was a coordinated terrorist attack unrelated to any internet video. According to one email, when asked about the whether the attack was linked to the Mohammad video, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said she, "could not confirm a connect as we simply don't know-and we won't know until there is an investigation." Further in the email, Deputy Spokesman at U.S. Mission to the United Nations Payton Knopf noted that at a press briefing earlier that day, Nuland explicitly stated that the attack on the consulate had been well planned. The email sent by Knopf to Rice at 5:42 pm said:[42]

In response, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with the United States Department of State for "any and all records or communications concerning, regarding, or related to the talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency" on October 18, 2012. The State Department failed to produce documents which led Judicial Watch to file a FOIA lawsuit on October 26, 2012. In a press release dated April 18, 2014, Judicial Watch announced it had obtained documents related to the talking points memo used by Susan Rice and other Obama administration officials in the days after the attack. These documents show the talking points used by the White House were misleading and were an attempt to blame the attack a video rather than administration policy. Specifically, an email from White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes which was sent on sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 8:09PM shows an orchestrated a campaign to mislead. The email "prep" was for Rice’s Sunday news show appearances to discuss the Benghazi attack.[41] In it Mr. Rhodes instructs:

September 11, 2012: a group of heavily armed Islamist militia members attacked the United States’ diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the violence, making it the first time since 1979 that a U.S. ambassador was killed in the line of duty.[39] In the aftermath, President Obama and senior administration officials identified an inflammatory YouTube video as the cause of the attack. Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations at the time, went on on several television shows and made the following claim:[40]


Judicial Watch filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests in fall 2012 with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) after press outlets reported that the JFK Library was in possession of more than 60 boxes of records from Robert F. Kennedy’s tenure as the U.S. Attorney General. Judicial Watch subsequently filed a FOIA request with NARA on December 5, 2012, on behalf of author/historian Max Holland seeking access to "Documents from the Robert F. Kennedy Papers Attorney General’s Confidential File which have been identified by the JFK Assassination Records Review Board as assassination records."[37] The government failed to produce the requested documents and on February 12, 2013, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the NARA, which "stipulates that the National Archives has not heeded public disclosure laws regarding nearly a dozen boxes of Kennedy’s Justice Department files. Those files have been kept in a secure vault at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester for decades. But under an unusual agreement reached between the Kennedy family and the National Archives after RFK’s assassination in 1968, his heirs maintain some authority in deciding when the files can be opened.[38]

Kennedy Assassination Records

The Supreme Court of the United States subsequently denied Judicial Watch’s petition for a writ of certiorari seeking a review of the issue.[35]

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. "The Obama administration has tried to cover this scandal up – and our lawsuit exposed it. We demand further investigation of the effort to destroy documents about the bin Laden raid."[35] The Associated Press (AP) filed its own query in search of "copies of all e-mails sent from and to the US government account or accounts" of McRaven referencing the Al-Qaeda leader. AP received a response the following day. However, AP never received a copy of the email obtained by Judicial Watch." [36]

The Federal Government failed to produce any records within the required 20 day time period. In order to force compliance, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the DOD and CIA on June 8, 2011. On January 31, 2014, after legal wrangling, the Pentagon was forced to release Operation Neptune Spear documents to Judicial Watch. One obtained email had the subject line OPSEC Guidance / Neptune Spear and is proof that days after the original FOIA request U.S. Special Operations Commander, Admiral William McRaven ordered his subordinates to "destroy" any Osama bin Laden photos they may have had "immediately."

Osama bin Laden, leader of the terror group al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 1, 2011 in a joint operation by the United States Navy SEALs and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This operation was code-named Operation Neptune Spear.[33] On May 2, 2011 Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the CIA for "all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011." [34]

Operation Neptune Spear


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