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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Judicial Watch: Who is watching the watchdog?

Who is watching the watchdog?
 Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that bills itself as a nonpartisan, educational organization devoted to holding officials accountable because ‘no one is above the law,’ was founded in 1994. Although it claims to be funded by thousands of individual donations, its biggest donor is the conservative Scaife Foundation, founded by the late conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Its first director was Larry Klayman, a right-wing activist and former Justice Department lawyer, is most noted for the endless filing of lawsuits designed to harass targeted officials and the dozens of lawsuits against the Clinton Administration in the 1990s. He even filed a lawsuit against his own mother.
In the early 2000s, Klayman broke with Judicial Watch and went into private practice, continuing his crusade of law suits and conspiracy theories.
Judicial Watch, however, continues under new management, and although it has taken on the occasional Republican, such as efforts to get Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force meeting minutes, most of the organization’s efforts are still aimed at leftist and liberal organizations, causes, and individuals, including the Obama Administration and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. It has been key to the continued flow of ‘news’ about the Clinton Foundation’s influence on the State Department during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, using Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to access documents, and then providing those documents; or often manipulated versions of them; to the media, which then runs with the story, with no evidence that any attempt is made to verify them or check their veracity. As an example, recent newspaper articles and editorials discussing emails between a Clinton aide and a senior Clinton Foundation official, seemed to indicate that a visa was issued to a UK soccer player based on pressure from the foundation official on behalf of a major donor to the foundation. Left out of some of the news reporting was the fact that the Clinton aide was reluctant to even pursue the issue, and the visa was not issued. One article did mention it, but it was buried deep in the article, and was probably missed by most readers. Judicial Watch is often briefly mentioned in media coverage, but not identified as the major source of the information.
Judicial Watch has also been the driving force behind many of the disclosures regarding the 2013 Benghazi attack and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server when she was secretary of state.
While it calls itself nonpartisan, a look at its web page would seem to tell a different story. The vast majority of its court filings and press releases are anti-Obama, anti-liberal, anti-immigration, and most telling, anti-Clinton. In June, 2016, Charity Navigator, a web site that rates non-profits, gives Judicial Watch an overall rating of 75.28 out of 100, or two stars, and a rating of 74.00 for accountability and transparency. As bad as this is, it’s a significant increase from the 48.50 (no star) rating it got in December 2002.
Given all this, one has to wonder why the media continues to recycle Judicial Watch information with no more fact-checking than it does. The only answer I can come up with is that these are ‘hot’ news items that are guaranteed to attract readers. As long as the good dirt keeps flowing, the stories will continue to run.

If the media is not holding the organization accountable for its actions—who is?