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Judicial Watch's Fitton: OSC Lawsuit Due to Obama 'Stonewalling'

By Sean Piccoli   |   Friday, 23 May 2014 06:54 PM

The head of Judicial Watch said Friday that his organization decided to file suit against a federal office only after it spent four years ducking a request to investigate possible Hatch Act violations by the White House during the 2010 midterm elections.

Judicial Watch sued the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in April after what its president, Tom Fitton, appearing on Newsmax TV, described as "typical Obama administration stonewalling" of his organization's call for a probe of two White House officials, Rahm Emanuel and Jim Messina.

Fitton, speaking with "America's Forum" host J.D. Hayworth, said Judicial Watch's OSC lawsuit traces back to a pair of 2010 Senate races that were of particular concern to the White House.

"Democrats are trying to protect their [Senate] majority, and they didn't want incumbents — or people that were perceived as incumbents — to face challenges internally in primaries," said Fitton. "It's kind of like the tea party challenges that are causing consternation for Republicans."

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So in the run-up to 2010, he said, White House Chief of Staff Emanuel and a deputy, Messina, had former President Bill Clinton discuss the possibility of federal jobs for two Democrats — if they would abandon plans to campaign against incumbents supported by the White House.

Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff both declined the offers, which quickly became public knowledge.

Judicial Watch filed a complaint with OSC in 2010 demanding it rule on whether Emanuel and Messina had violated the federal Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from directly participating in political campaigns.

Fitton said OSC officials finally replied in 2013, well after Emanuel and Messina had left the executive branch. "We asked what went on, and they said, 'Oh, well, those guys have left office, so we don't have any jurisdiction anymore,' which is baloney. We know that's not the case. So we said, 'OK, a) it's baloney; you do have jurisdiction, b) they were in office for several months after we filed the complaint. What did you do in the meantime?'"

Fitton said the latter question was met with "stone silence" for nearly a year, "and that's why we sued for documents."

The lawsuit demands OSC's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officer turn over all internal correspondence and documentation related to Judicial Watch's requests in the case.

Fitton said the OSC's conduct has put Judicial Watch in the position of "suing the enforcer of FOIA laws for violating the FOIA law."

"It's unbelievable," he said.

Fitton is not sure whether Emanuel, who is now mayor of Chicago, and Messina, a political consultant, will ever face Hatch Act penalties given that they're no longer federal employees.

"But they ought to be subject to investigation so we know if the law was violated," he said, "just for accountability sake."

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