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Speaker's problems extend far beyond Mark Foley

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Hastert Drops Ball on Ethical Misconduct

Speaker’s problems extend far beyond Mark Foley

The sex scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R.-Fla.) just won’t go away. As I’m sure you know by now, the former Florida congressman is accused of sending salacious e-mails to teenage boys—and possibly much worse. The FBI is investigating. So too is the House Ethics Committee.

Foley’s reported behavior is deplorable and deserves prosecution. No thinking person could read these disgusting e-mails and come to the conclusion they are innocent or appropriate. It is obvious Foley was attempting to manipulate and seduce these teenagers. If these attempts rise to the level of criminal activity, and it appears they do, then Foley must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Now it is alleged that over three years ago the leadership in the House was warned about Foley’s predatory behavior and they did little to stop it! More recently, House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert and Rep. John Shimkus, who heads the board that oversees the page program, seem to have known about e-mails Foley sent to one former congressional page, requesting the boy’s photo. What was done about this obvious red flag? Foley was told to stop contacting the boy. No reports were made to authorities. No investigation was initiated. A verbal request, and that’s it.

I wish I could say that I’m surprised. I’m not. Under Hastert’s watch, few congressmen accused of ethical misconduct have undergone serious investigations. To be sure, the Democratic leadership and Hastert were full partners in the evisceration of the ethics process on the Hill. The Democrats’ Gary Condit, William Jefferson and John Conyers, to name a few, have all benefited from lackadaisical ethics enforcement. Foley had some reason to believe he could get away with his behavior—at least with respect to his congressional colleagues.

Democrats are falling all over themselves to make political hay of this situation. It is difficult to take seriously moral grandstanding on the part of congressional Democrats considering their defenses of admitted perjurer, accused rapist, and all-around masher Bill Clinton. To say nothing of tawdry skeletons in the Democratic closet, Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) fixed his boyfriend’s parking tickets. This very same boyfriend ran a male prostitution ring run out of Frank’s home. Frank now is a senior and honored member of his party’s caucus. Former Democratic Rep. Gerry Studds was reprimanded in 1983 for having sex with a 17-year old male page. Studds was unapologetic and continued to serve in the House until the 1990s. And does anyone seriously believe congressional Democrats had no inkling of Foley’s “overly friendly” interest in House pages? I don’t.

The criminal investigation will probably never produce any satisfactory public accounting about who knew what and when about Foley’s behavior. This is the purview of the new House ethics investigation. Previous ethics investigations have been half-hearted and politicized, and have left many House members unaccountable for egregious misconduct. I tend to think that not much will change with this investigation, though I hope the public pressure will force more diligence.

Any congressman—Democrat or Republican—who knew about Foley’s improper communications with House pages and took no meaningful action to stop them should resign.

Are the American People Too Hard on Activist Judges?

One former Supreme Court Justice says, “Yes!” Sandra Day O’Connor wrote an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal recently, complaining that the anger the American people have expressed towards our nation’s judges is excessive and threatens the proper functioning of the judicial system. Specifically, O’Connor writes: “…the breadth and intensity of rage currently being leveled at the judiciary may be unmatched in American history…using judges as punching bags presents a grave threat to the independent judiciary.”

Can any of you think of reasons why the American people might have a problem with some judges? I can think of more than a few.

Just one month ago, Judicial Watch uncovered the fact that Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who ruled the government’s anti-terrorism wiretapping program unconstitutional, had a potential conflict of interest she failed to disclose. (She served on the board of a foundation that gave money to the ACLU, the lead plaintiff in the suit challenging the eavesdropping program.)

Then there are also instances where judges seem to take advantage of the system for their own personal gain. For example, Judicial Watch recently filed a lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles which is paying judges cash benefits that are prohibited by state law. Overall the county wastes $20 million each year in taxpayer funds. When people hear that judges are enriching themselves at the expense of taxpayers, they ought to be upset.

And then there are the decisions—the horrible instances of judicial activism where the U.S. Constitution is scrapped in favor of the personal whims of liberal judges (more often than not acting at the behest of the ultra-leftist ACLU). Case in point: The ruling, since overturned, by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that school children cannot say the Pledge of Allegiance because it contains the phrase, “Under God.” That is the type of judicial activist decision—and there are many—that undermines faith in the judiciary.

According to Judge William Pryor, who offered a rebuttal op-ed to the O’Connor piece, the American people have a right to express their distaste at such dreadful and damaging decisions. “The judiciary has rendered some unjust decisions that deserved harsh rebuke,” he wrote. Pryor continued, “Many who complain about criticisms of the judiciary concede that some criticism of judicial decisions is fair. That assessment is too mild. Occasionally criticism of judicial decisions is essential to the progress of our constitutional republic.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Laguna Beach’s Illegal Day Labor Site

One of our goals with respect to our illegal immigration-related lawsuits is to create models that can be replicated in other cities where officials are violating the law to help illegal aliens.

For example, last fall, we first filed a lawsuit for taxpayers against the town of Herndon and Fairfax County, Va., for the town’s decision to bankroll a day laborer site for illegal aliens. And this week, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court against the city of Laguna Beach for funding the Laguna Beach Day Worker Center, a taxpayer-funded day laborer site that helps illegal aliens find jobs and provides other services, such as English instruction. We filed the lawsuit on behalf of local taxpayers Eileen Garcia and George Riviere, who have been active and public in their opposition to the center. Laguna Beach is known to many because of the MTV reality show. But Judicial Watch and its taxpayer clients are trying to bring a dose of legal reality to Laguna Beach.

According to public records, the city of Laguna Beach provided a $21,000 grant for fiscal year 2005-06 and a $22,000 financed grant for fiscal year 2006-07 to the South County Cross Cultural Council, a non-profit organization charged with operating the facility. Just to give you some perspective, this represents the largest “community assistance” grant provided by the city of Laguna Beach, which also uses taxpayer funds to provide portable restroom facilities, trash removal and to lease the property from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

How does the center determine whether or not its day laborer clients are eligible to work in the U.S.? It doesn’t. The center does not even require that day laborers provide any formal identification (just a $1 fee when they get a job). According to several studies, the large majority of day laborers is in the United States illegally and therefore is not eligible to work in the United States.

The arguments in this lawsuit are similar to those we’ve made in Herndon. In our complaint, we allege that “by authorizing, ratifying, and approving operation of the Center, at which employment referral services and other public benefits are being provided to day laborers without verifying the day laborers’ eligibility for employment in the United States, the City of Laguna Beach is violating federal law.” (Federal law prohibits the hiring of an undocumented worker, or referring an alien for employment for a fee, knowing the alien is not authorized for such employment. Federal law also requires verification of eligibility to work in the United States.)

When will local officials finally realize they only make the illegal immigration problem worse by providing incentives for illegal alien lawbreakers (and the Americans who unlawfully employ them?) Local officials should not have a free pass to violate federal immigration laws. That’s why we’re in court.

Written By

Mr. Fitton is the president of Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

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