Judicial Watch

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Judicial Watch, Inc. describes itself on its website, judicialwatch.org, as "a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law."[1] It has also fashioned itself as a media organization.[2] It was initiated near the beginning of the Clinton Administration in 1994 and asserts that its role is "to serve as an ethical and legal 'watchdog' over our government, legal, and judicial systems to promote a return to ethics and morality in our nation's public life."

The group was founded in 1994 by Larry Klayman,[2] who the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as an anti-government "extremist."[3] It is now run by Thomas Fitton, who serves as its president.[2]

Judicial Watch has been called "one of the biggest players in the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy."[4] It has made many claims since its founding which news outlets describe as either false or misleading.[5][6][7][8]

News and Controversies

"Voter Fraud" Advocacy

Judicial Watch has an "Election Integrity Project" which has participated in campaigns to "maintain accurate voting rolls." Alongside the Public Interest Legal Foundation the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), and True the Vote, Judicial Watch sent "menacing" letters to local election officials across the United States.[9] The letters, using the Judicial letterhead and its "nobody is above the law" motto, notified recipients that their jurisdiction was in violation of the National Voter Registration Act."[10]

After laying out a proposal to address their concerns, Judicial Watch threatened litigation if they suggestions are not followed. Organizations such as the Brennan Center have called similar campaigns baseless attempts to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud.[11]

Robert Popper, who directs the Election Integrity Project provided testimony to Trump's Election Integrity Commission, which many saw as an attempt to substantiate his baseless claim that there was widespread voter fraud leading him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016. In his testimony, he said "We know that voter fraud, whether impersonation fraud, absentee ballot fraud, registration fraud, double voting, noncitizen voting, or voting by those ineligible under state law, occurs and is, in some form, a feature of every election, and we have suggestive, but not conclusive, evidence about the extent of such fraud."[12]

The Commission disbanded after being unable to show any evidence of voter fraud of the proportion Trump implied in the 2016 election.[13]

Judical Watch and Donald Trump

When asked by The New York Times about his organization's plans to hold the Trump administration accountable, Judicial Watch President Thomas Fitton deflected on the proposition that Trump should disclose his tax returns taking aim at the I.R.S instead, calling it "a menace.” Likewise, he said that lawsuits about Trump University defrauding students were akin to "ambulance chasing."[2]

Judicial Watch and Hillary Clinton

According to The New York Times, "Judicial Watch was one of the Clintons’ original tormentors." Judicial Watch has sued Hillary and Bill Clinton consistently since 1994. The Times credits Judicial Watch, the "indefatigable Clinton adversary," with shaping the narrative that the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee is untrustworthy.[2]

Record of "False" or "Misleading" Statements

Some statements from Judicial Watch officials have been deemed untrue by various news outlets.[5]

In 2017, an article published by Judicial Watch claimed that an "Anti-Trump" billboard was funded with public money citing "city documents." The Republic says that this assertion is "False."

In 2017, Judicial Watch president Thomas Fitton stated that there was "credible evidence" of DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered in relation to the WikiLeaks release of 20,000 emails.[14] In 2018, The BBC called that theory a conspiracy "based on little or no evidence."[15]

In 2015, Judicial Watch asserted that ISIS, the terrorist group, has a base eight miles from the U.S. border in Mexico according to anonymous sources. Similar claims have been made in the past, but no independent outlet has been able to confirm such a claim. Politifactrated the claim "False."[16]

In 2013, Judicial Watch claimed that the Obama Justice Department’s had a role in organizing protests following the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American boy who George Zimmerman killed supposedly in "self-defense." Judicial Watch's findings were based on an FOIA response. The report went on the garner attention from The Heritage Foundation, The Daily Caller and Rush Limbaugh who claimed: "Obama Regime Organized Trayvon Protests." Politifact evaluated the assertion and rated it "Mostly False."[7]

Other news outlets such as FactCheck.org, among others have also rather Judicial Watch's claims, dating back at least to 2008, as false.[8]

Ties to the State Policy Network

Judicial Watch is an "associate" member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country.[17]

SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 49 states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of June 2018, SPN's membership totals 156. It is an $83 million right-wing empire as of the 2011 funding documents from SPN itself and each of its state "think tank" members. Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.[18]

In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"[19]

A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.[20]

Funding

In 2002, Judicial Watch received $1.1 million from the Carthage Foundation and a further $400,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation. The year before the Scaife Foundation had given $1.35 million and Carthage $500,000.

In all, between 1997 and 2002, Judicial Watch received $7,069,500 in 19 grants from a handful of foundations including. The bulk of this funding came from just three foundations - the Sarah Scaife Foundation, The Carthage Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.[21]

Judicial Watch received $77,500 from DonorsTrust between 2010 and 2014, a donor-advised fund that serves to further disguise the identity of donors. (See all DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund contributions here.)

Judicial Watch has also taken donations from the Alleghany Foundation, National Christian Charitable Foundation, Robert S. and Star Pepper Foundation, The Whitcomb Charitable Foundation, Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Bill and Berniece Grewcock Foundation and The Rodney Fund among others.[22]

Core Financials

2016[23]

  • Total Revenue: $45,391,916
  • Total Expenses: $30,901,051
  • Net Assets: $63,634,313

2015[24]

  • Total Revenue: $37,863,937
  • Total Expenses: $24,486,270
  • Net Assets: $47,131,962

2014[25]

  • Total Revenue: $30,811,460
  • Total Expenses: $21,638,212
  • Net Assets: $36,135,037

2013[26]

  • Total Revenue: $20,622,935
  • Total Expenses: $17,657,173
  • Net Assets: $27,453,495

2012[26]

  • Total Revenue: $20,210,502
  • Total Expenses: $15,902,133
  • Net Assets: $23,039,263

Personnel

Board of Directors

As of March 17, 2017:[27]

  • Tom Fitton, President
  • Paul Orfanedes, Legal Representative
  • Chris Farrell, Director of Investigations and Board Member

Staff

As of March 17, 2017:[28]

  • Thomas Fitton – President, Board Member, Officer
  • Paul Orfanedes – Director of Litigation, Board Member, Officer
  • Chris Farrell – Director of Research and Investigation, Board Member
  • Paul Orfanedes – Director of Litigation
  • Jason Aldrich – Attorney
  • Michael Bekesha – Attorney
  • Lauren Burke – Attorney
  • Ramona Cotca – Attorney
  • Christopher Fedeli – Attorney
  • Eric Lee – Attorney
  • Sterling “Ernie” Norris – Attorney
  • James Peterson – Attorney
  • Bob Popper – Attorney
  • Christina Rotaru – Paralegal
  • David Rothstein – Paralegal
  • Chris Farrell – Director of Investigations
  • Sean Dunagan – Senior Investigator
  • Bill Marshall – Senior Investigator
  • Geoff Lyon – Investigative Counsel
  • Micah Morrison – Chief Investigative Reporter
  • Kate Bailey – FOIA Program Manager
  • Kirsti Jespersen – Investigator
  • Justin McCarthy – Research Associate
  • Carter Clews – Director of Communications
  • Jill Farrell – Director of Public Affairs
  • Brandon Cockerham – Public Affairs Assistant
  • Matt Miano – Broadcast Coordinator
  • Irene Garcia – Investigative Reporter
  • John Britten – Director of Digital Strategy
  • Michael Love – Digital Media Associate
  • Mike Aquila – Digital Media Associate
  • Steve Andersen – Director of Development
  • John Albertella – Director of Direct Marketing
  • Ariana Azizkeya – Direct Response Marketing Manager
  • Tim Wathen – Direct Marketing Production Manager
  • Angel Azar – Major Gifts Officer
  • Steve Sheldon – Regional Development Manager
  • Jim Petruzzello – Regional Development Manager
  • Mark Spencer – Southwest Project Coordinator
  • Meagan Pfalzer – Manager of Development Operations
  • Candice Velazquez – Program Coordinator
  • Beth Avery – Development Coordinator
  • Victoria Sanders – Foundations Manager
  • Susan Prytherch – Chief of Staff
  • Patrick Roy – Operations Manager
  • Jerry Dunleavy – Administrative Assistant
  • Janice Rurup – Special Assistant to the President
  • Tim Gray – Controller
  • Stephen Wilson – Financial Operations Manager
  • Darlene Robinson – Accounts Payable Clerk
  • Connie Ruffley – Executive Assistant, CA

Contact

Employer Identification Number (EIN): 52-1885088

Judicial Watch, Inc.
425 3rd Street, SW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20024
Phone: (202).646.5172
Phone: 1.888.JW.Ethic
Fax: 202-646-5199
Email: info@judicialwatch.org
Web: http://www.judicialwatch.org/
Twitter: @JudicialWatch Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JudicialWatch/

Southern Regional Headquarters
100 S.E. 2nd Street
Bank of America Tower
Suite 3920
Miami, FL 33131-2148
Tel: 305-349-2391
Fax: 305-374-9054

Western Regional Headquarters
2540 Huntington Drive
Suite 201
San Marino, CA 91108-2601
Tel: 626-287-4540
Fax: 626-237-2003

Southwestern Regional Headquarters
5735 Pineland Drive, Suite 275
Dallas, TX 75231
Tel: 214-739-7188
Fax: 214-739-8873

References

  1. Judicial Watch home, organizational website, accessed March 17, 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Jonathan Mahler Group’s Tactic on Hillary Clinton: Sue Her Again and Again The New York Times Oct. 12 2016
  3. Southern Poverty Law Center Larry Klayman SPLC, accessed July 2018
  4. HEATHER DIGBY PARTON Judicial Watch vs. Hillary: The conservative group has a long history of spreading Clinton lies Salon Aug. 22 2016
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sarah Jarvis Fact Check: Did taxpayers fund anti-Trump billboard in Phoenix? The Republic, June 12 2017
  6. Kristen Phillips and Peter HolleySean Hannity done talking about Seth Rich and WikiLeaks ‘for now’ as Fox News retracts story The Washington Post May 24 2017
  7. 7.0 7.1 Katie Sanders Judicial Watch says Department of Justice unit organized protests against George Zimmerman Politifact, July 12 2013
  8. 8.0 8.1 Jess Henig Nancy Pelosi’s Personal Jet Factcheck.org, Dec 28, 2008
  9. Christopher Deluzio and Myrna Pérez With Midterms Looming, Conservative Groups Push Aggressive Voter Purges Brennan Center for Justice, June 25, 2018
  10. Judical Watch Florida Letter Judicial Watch, April 11 2017
  11. Brennan Center Civil Rights Groups Launch National Effort to Combat Alarming Voter Purge Attempt Press Release, Nov 22, 2017
  12. Robert Popper Judicial Watch Election Integrity Project Director Robert Popper to Give Testimony to Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Press Release, Sept. 11, 2017
  13. Charles Stewart III [1] 'The Washington Post Jan. 4 2018
  14. Judicial Watch ‘Credible evidence’ points to ‘hanky panky’ in Seth Rich case Recommended News, May 29 2017
  15. Charlie Mole Seth Rich: How a young man's murder attracted conspiracy theories The BBC April 21 2018
  16. W. Gardner Selby Judicial Watch says ISIS operating a camp in Mexico--near El Paso Politifact April 17 2017
  17. State Policy Network, Directory, State Policy Network, accessed July 2018
  18. Rebekah Wilce, Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  19. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  20. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  21. Media Transparency, Judicial Watch, organizational website, archived by WayBack Machine on December 19, 2005.
  22. Conservative Transparency Judicial Watch American 21st century bridge foundation, accessed July 2018
  23. Nonprofit Explorer, 2016 IRS Form 990, ProPublica, June 30, 2016.
  24. Judicial Watch, 2015 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, June 3, 2016.
  25. Judicial Watch, 2014 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, June 9, 2015.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Judicial Watch, 2013 IRS Form 990, May 19, 2014.
  27. Judicial Watch, Board of Directors, organizational website, accessed March 17, 2017.
  28. Judicial Watch, Staff, organizational website, accessed March 17, 2017.