Solyndra, Obamnesty and ACORN

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Judicial Watch Weekly Update

December 2, 2011

Judicial Watch President Tom FittonFrom the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

JW Sues Obama Administration for Solyndra Records

Solyndra was once known as the poster child for the Obama administration’s “green energy” initiative. However, it has become the poster child for the corruption that ensues when the government treats tax money as a play thing and meddles in the private sector.

Solyndra, you may recall, filed for bankruptcy in September, leaving 1,100 workers without jobs and American taxpayers on the hook for a half billion dollars due to an Obama administration stimulus loan guarantee. Thanks to some good work from the House Energy and Commerce Committee along with some thorough reporting by The Washington Post, we now know that not only was this loan a horrible “investment,” but it was also rife with corruption.

And yet, rather than coming clean and releasing all records related to the Solyndra deal, the Obama administration continues to stonewall and obfuscate.

For this reason, JW filed separate lawsuits against the Obama Department of Energy and Office of Management and Budget to obtain records regarding the taxpayer funded Solyndra loans. Here’s what we’re after, pursuant to our original September 6, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent lawsuits:

  1. Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the issuance of loan guarantees to Solyndra LLC, Solyndra Inc., Solyndra Fab 2 LLC, and/or 360 Degree Solar Holdings Inc.
  2. Any and all records of communication between any official, officer, or employee of the Department of Energy and any official, officer or employee of any other government agency, department or office regarding concerning or related to Solyndra LLC, Solyndra Inc., Solyndra Fab 2 LLC, and/or 360 Degree Solar Holdings Inc.
  3. Any and all records of communications between any official, officer or employee of the Department of Energy and any official, officer or employee of the following entities [Solyndra investors] regarding concerning or related to Solyndra LLC, Solyndra Inc., Solyndra Fab 2 LLC, and/or 360 Degree Solar Holdings Inc.:

    a. Argonaut Private Equity LLC

    b. Madrone Capital Partners LLC

    c. U.S. Venture Partners (USVP) LLC

    d. Rockport Capital Partners LLC.

Both agencies have acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests. The Department of Energy provided two compact discs on October 7, 2011, that contained a partial response to the request while noting that “[a]dditional responsive documents exist and are being reviewed in preparation for public release.” However, to date, no further response has been received.

The Office of Management and Budget has failed to produce any records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request or demonstrate that responsive records are exempt from production. It has not indicated whether or when any responsive records will be produced. The statutory allotted time for responses to both requests has expired, prompting Judicial Watch’s lawsuit.

Let’s review what we already know about the Solyndra “loan.”

We know, courtesy of The Washington Post, that “the White House tried to rush federal reviewers for a decision” on the loan “so Vice President Biden could announce the approval at a September 2009 groundbreaking for the company’s factory.” The Washington Post also reported that Department of Energy officials asked Solyndra to delay announcing lay-offs until after the mid-term elections in 2010. (Energy Secretary Chu denied any improprieties in his testimony before Congress.)

We know Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, who reportedly raised between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000 for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, is Solyndra’s top financial backer. The Obama administration claimed that Kaiser never discussed Solyndra with White House officials. A lie. Emails obtained by The Washington Post show that Kaiser, who was a frequent visitor to the White House in 2009 and 2010, discussed Solyndra during a White House meeting as recently as last year.

Kaiser evidently wanted another “emergency loan” from the Obama administration to keep the struggling company afloat. The administration refused, prompting Kaiser to invest his own cash and consummate a deal to move ahead of taxpayers in the repayment schedule (in violation of the law and the initial agreement to put taxpayers first in the line of creditors in the event that Solyndra failed).

With all of the controversy swirling around the massive Solyndra bailout this is no time for the Obama administration to ignore FOIA law. The moment the Obama administration decided to “invest” a half billion taxpayer dollars in Solyndra, they owed the American people the truth about how and why these funds were allocated.

Our new FOIA lawsuits show the Solyndra scandal is heating up and that the Obama administration is in cover-up mode. The American people are set to lose $ 535 million dollars and want to know why it happened. The Obama administration’s lies and potential criminal misconduct by high-ranking government officials make this a scandal of the first order.

Obama Administration Violating ACORN Funding Ban According to New Audit

ACORN is dead. Isn’t that what we were told after ACORN workers were caught on tape helping undercover reporters evade prostitution laws? In fact, following the media outburst that resulted from the undercover videos, President Obama himself signed into law an ACORN funding ban that included any affiliate and/or subsidiary. And the organization filed bankruptcy.

But as JW announced in September with the release of our groundbreaking report, “The Rebranding of ACORN,” rumors of ACORN’s demise were completely fabricated. Far from defunct, the former “community organization” has splintered into difficult-to-track organizations across the country. (Former ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis calls them “bullet-proof community-organizing Frankensteins.”) And, just like their predecessors, these new ACORN spin-offs are prepared to wreak havoc on the 2012 elections.

One of those ACORN offshoots is the Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA), which was previously known as ACORN Housing.

You might recall that in July 2011 Judicial Watch uncovered a $ 79,819 grant to AHCOA. The Obama administration claimed this grant did not violate the ban because the two organizations were separate and distinct. We said the two organizations were virtually indistinguishable and the grant was unlawful.

Well, according to The Daily Caller, at least one influential non-profit organization has conducted an audit of AHCOA indicating the Obama administration operated outside the law:

A newly released internal audit appears to indicate that the Government Accountability Office and President Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development incorrectly argued that a specific organization wasn’t ACORN-affiliated.

HUD’s office of general counsel and the GAO have both claimed that Affordable Housing Centers of America, or AHCOA, is not affiliated with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. AHCOA formerly called itself ACORN Housing, but changed its name after the 2009 ACORN meltdown.

The Obama administration has awarded more than $ 700,000 in taxpayer funds to AHCOA despite a 2010 law stipulating that no taxpayer funds could be awarded to ACORN “or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations.”

You can read the audit, which was uncovered by the group Cause of Action, for yourself, here.

This previously confidential internal audit report was produced by NeighborWorks America, a “congressionally chartered non-profit organization” that doles out taxpayer funds to support “community development.” NeighborWorks is one of those quasi-governmental entities that appears to be outside the scope of the U.S. government but is actually controlled in part by government officials. (The Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, for example, sits on the organization’s Board of Directors. See the rest of the board here.)

NeighborWorks “reinvested” more than $ 20 billion in rural, suburban and urban communities between 2005 and 2010. The organization’s network consists of 235 community organizations across the country. And it is of extreme significance that AHCOA will, now, not be among them.

NeighborWorks, unlike Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, decided against distributing cash to AHCOA: “Although AHC and ACORN might be incorporated as separate entities in form and structure, the financial transactions noted below evidence extensive relationships between both organizations that may undermine claims of an ‘arm’s length relationship’ between them,” the NeighborWorks America auditors wrote.

(Of course, this is the precise argument Judicial Watch made when we uncovered the Obama administration’s AHCOA grant.)

Aside from the ACORN funding ban, there are numerous reasons why ACORN Housing/AHCOA should never be the beneficiary of American tax dollars.

Here’s one of them: A September 21, 2010, HUD inspector general report, which notes that ACORN Housing is “now operating as Affordable Housing Centers of America,” indicates the organization misappropriated funds from a $ 3,252,399 federal grant. The inspector general concluded that ACORN Housing/AHCOA had charged salary expenses to the HUD grant that “were not fully supported.” The organization also continued to pay its counselors even after they were terminated, did not meet federal procurement standards and allegedly destroyed documents to conceal the fraudulent activity.

Here’s another: A separate, November 8, 2010, HUD inspector general report stated that ACORN Housing/AHCOA “inappropriately expended more than $ 3.2 million from its fiscal years 2004 and 2005 grants for the elimination of lead poisoning in its housing program.” The misappropriation included the use of funds “not identified in its grant application’s detailed budgets,” including “campaign services” and “grant fundraising activities.”

And as if this audit wasn’t enough bad news for ACORN, on Wednesday the press was abuzz about a new report from the Department of Justice Inspector General focusing on a New York community organization that acted as an ACORN front group several years ago. Evidently this group misused a Department of Justice grant in the amount of $ 138,130. According to GovernmentExecutive.com:

A New York City community organizing group that received a Justice Department grant to teach students leadership skills failed to follow requirements for documenting its spending, according to a report the Justice inspector general’s office released Wednesday….

The report also described the New York group as a “pass-through entity” for ACORN, a politically controversial neighborhood activist group that conservatives believe is a tool of the Democratic Party.

“While NYACA’s OJP-approved budget was for the allocation of grant funds to payroll and fringe benefit charges,” the report said, “we determined NYACA did not have any paid employees at the time it received the grant or at any time during the life of the grant-funded project. All of the individuals who worked on behalf of NYACA were ACORN employees. Further, the former NYACA executive director stated that she served concurrently as the executive director for both NYACA and the New York branch of ACORN.”

(The list of infractions is too long to include here. Feel free to read the full IG report here.)

Again, this is just one state-run organization. Just imagine the corruption and fraud that has occurred across ACORN’s massive national network. (Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Just read our ACORN report.)

As I said in an interview with GovernmentExecutive.com, “the fact that these groups continue to get money in violation of the law screams out for a comprehensive criminal investigation.” But don’t expect it from the Obama administration. Barack Obama’s ties to ACORN are well-documented, which is the principal reason ACORN’s spin-offs are handed tax dollars instead of subpoenas.

Obamnesty is Here!

Illegal alien amnesty is no longer the theoretical consideration of federal immigration officials inside the Obama administration. No more musings by Obama administration bureaucrats on how best to bypass Congress and implement illegal alien amnesty in stealth. The secret is now out. And, as reported by The New York Times, illegal alien amnesty is now the official policy of the United States of America, courtesy of the Obama administration:

The Department of Homeland Security will begin a review on Thursday (November 17) of all deportation cases before the immigration courts and start a nationwide training program for enforcement agents and prosecuting lawyers, with the goal of speeding deportations of convicted criminals and halting those of many illegal immigrants with no criminal record.

The accelerated triage of the court docket — about 300,000 cases — is intended to allow severely overburdened immigration judges to focus on deporting foreigners who committed serious crimes or pose national security risks, Homeland Security officials said. Taken together, the review and the training, which will instruct immigration agents on closing deportations that fall outside the department’s priorities, are designed to bring sweeping changes to the immigration courts and to enforcement strategies of field agents nationwide.

First off, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should have but one priority: Protect American citizens by enforcing the law. The vast majority of American citizens believe if a law’s worth having it’s worth enforcing, including laws that prohibit people from sneaking across the border and living in the shadows, often on the taxpayer’s dime! But not this White House. This White House simply picks and chooses which laws it wishes to enforce based on its own whims and political and election needs. And that is a sure path to chaos, confusion and discontent.

And don’t believe for a second the Obama administration’s line that criminal illegal aliens won’t find themselves “outside the department’s priorities.”

Judicial Watch uncovered documents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) proving that immigration officials were urged to use “prosecutorial discretion” to dismiss deportation proceedings against a wide variety of illegal alien criminals — including those convicted of serious crimes such as sexual assault, solicitation of murder, aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer, and kidnapping, as well as numerous drug charges.

Of course, the Obama administration’s tired justification for its new “amnesty” policy is that the system is too stressed to enforce federal immigration laws. This is an excuse, not a reason, to purposely give amnesty (and the authorization to work!) to illegal aliens. After all, we’re talking about an administration that doled out half a billion dollars to the now bankrupt energy company Solyndra. And that’s just a tiny drop in the overflowing bailout bucket. Couldn’t even a small portion of the trillions of taxpayer dollars now “invested” in Solyndra or in the ACORN network be better spent helping to resolve the illegal immigration crisis?

Most Americans would answer with an emphatic “yes!”

I can’t help but think this move by the Obama administration to effectively “legalize” millions of illegal aliens is intended to create a new community of dependable liberal voters (legal and illegal) just in time for the 2012 elections. That appears to be the record of this White House: tossing bones to key voting groups by crafting policies that undermine the rule of law but satisfy their “special interests.” (See: Black Panthers, La Raza, and DOMA for just a few such examples.) And that is simply indefensible.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Judicial Watch is in the midst of a massive campaign to tell Barack Obama and the governors of all 50 states that Americans want our immigration laws enforced. In fact, in early November we delivered 85,010 petitions to the president with that very message. As I said in my cover letter that accompanied the petitions: “Your administration must obey the law and not implement amnesty through administrative measures or under the ruse of prosecutorial discretion.”

You can be sure that your Judicial Watch will continue its leadership role to investigate and litigate in order to expose and stop Obamnesty and all other efforts to undermine our nation’s laws against illegal immigration. For a good summary of our effective activism in this area, please click here.

Until next week…

Tom Fitton (signature)
Tom Fitton
President

Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation’s public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, click here.

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