The Obama Administration has become embroiled in three simultaneous scandals over the past few weeks. Much speculation has been made about what President Obama knew and when he knew it. Regardless of whether President Obama gave the order or had personal knowledge of spying on reporters or the harassment of conservative groups, the charges are well within the character of an administration well known for executive overreach and disregard for the law. The Obama administration has been hallmarked by disregard for the rule of law since its early days.
Auto industry bankruptcy
In the spring of 2009, the Obama Administration ignored established bankruptcy law to cast aside secured creditors of Chrysler and GM in favor of unsecured but better connected creditors such as the United Auto Workers pension according to National Affairs. Creditors were denied their right to have input on the company reorganizations through a sub rosa plan in which the assets of “old” Chrysler and GM were “sold” to “new” Chrysler and GM, bypassing creditors in the process. When some investors stood up for their rights, President Obama attacked them as “speculators” in a speech at Chrysler.
The closing of dealerships in the aftermath of the auto bankruptcies fueled speculation and rumors that the Obama Administration was using the auto bankruptcies to target political opponents. The Washington Examiner pointed out at the time that dealers on the list of closures had donated millions to Republicans, but only $200 to Obama. The list of closures seems to have been dictated by Steve Rattner, President Obama’s “car czar.”
Oil moratorium contempt of court
After the BP oil spill in 2010, President Obama issued a unilateral moratorium on deepwater drilling. When a court ruled that the drill ban was unconstitutional, the Department of Interior still refused to issue new drilling permits. This led a federal judge to hold the Obama Administration in contempt of court for its “determined disregard” for its continued drilling restrictions.
Unilateral war in Libya
In the spring of 2011, after dithering for months, President Obama approved U.S. intervention in the Libyan civil war. Obama notified Congress within 48 hours as required by the War Powers Act, but neglected to seek congressional approval within 60 days. Obama also failed to end American involvement within 30 days of the deadline for seeking congressional approval as required. The N.Y. Times called the Libya intervention “illegal” and said that it “set a troubling precedent that could allow future administrations to wage war at their convenience — free of legislative checks and balances.”
The matter is all the more stark because President Obama had said in 2007 that “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” After Libya, Politifact rated the statement a “full [flip] flop.”
Fast and Furious
On the heels of the auto bankruptcies came “Fast and Furious.” In the spring and summer of 2009, Democrats from Secretary of State Clinton to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) claimed that 90 percent of the guns used in Mexican crimes came from the United States. While claim is not accurate, thousands of the guns that actually did get to Mexico from the United States apparently were allowed across the border by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). Whistleblowers later told Congress that they had orders to let smugglers take illegally purchased guns across the border into Mexico. As Examiner reported in 2011, several of the illegal weapons were found at the scene of the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on December 15, 2010. The guns turned up at numerous other crime scenes in Mexico as well. In 2011, another American officer, Jaime Zapata, was murdered in Mexico with a gun that had been tracked by the ATF according to CBS News. The Mexican government was not pleased with the revelations that the Obama Administration allowed thousands of illegal guns into their country.
Also in 2011, the Obama Administration’s loan to Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer, went sour. While most analyses of the Solyndra scandal focus on the poor judgment involved in making a loan that ultimately cost taxpayers $535 million according to Yahoo, laws might have been broken here as well. According to the Christian Science Monitor, it may have been illegal for the Obama Administration to restructure Solyndra’s loan to put private creditors ahead of taxpayers.
In 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed the power of the government to compel its citizens to purchase a private product, keeping Obamacare’s individual mandate intact. The legal status of other parts of Obamacare remains questionable. The mandate that all insurance policies cover contraceptive and abortifacient drugs has been successfully challenged in court as a violation of the freedom of religion.
Since 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued more than 1,200 Obamacare waivers to companies according to The Hill. As noted in Examiner, the language of the Affordable Care Act did not permit such waivers. In 2013, Politico reported that members of Congress were secretly negotiating an exemption from Obamacare’s requirements under concerns that staffers would face sharp increases in premiums when Obamacare goes into effect.
More recently, faced with a $1.5 billion shortfall in funds to implement Obamacare, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resorted to soliciting donations from insurance companies according to the Washington Post. As Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) points out in the Wall St. Journal, the Constitution and other laws do not permit the government to spend money that has not been appropriated by Congress. Soliciting donations from companies that Sebelius regulates is likely a conflict of interest as well.
Earlier this year, President Obama received a strong rebuke from a federal court for several appointments that he had made to the National Labor Relations Board. The president styled the appointments as recess appointments even though Congress was still in session. The decision, described on Examiner, stated that Congress, not the president, decided when it was in session and then went a step further, stating that recess appointments could only be used to fill vacancies that arise during a recess. A second appeals court issued a similar ruling in May after the NLRB ignored the first court’s ruling and continued to issue decisions on cases heard by the invalid members.
President Obama also has a record of issuing executive decrees when Congress fails to act. In December 2010, the EPA announced plans to regulate carbon after Congress failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation. At the same time, the FCC unilaterally issued “net neutrality” rules in spite of a court ruling stating that the agency did not have the power to regulate the internet. Before even asking Congress to enact new gun control laws, the president signed 23 executive orders relating to guns.
The new scandals, lying to public about Benghazi, spying on reporters to ferret out leakers within the administration, and using federal enforcement agencies to quash political opposition, are merely the latest in a long line of abuses of power by President Obama and his deputies. The common threads among all of the Obama scandals are abuse of executive power disregard of the law for political gain. The new trio of scandals is no different.