Judicial Watch: (Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on October 17, 2013, thanks to Judicial Watch litigation, the public gained access to more than 57,000 pages of previously withheld documents from the Clinton Presidential Library related to the National Taskforce on Health Care Reform, a “cabinet-level” taskforce chaired by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton during the first term of the Bill Clinton presidency.
The release of records came more than seven years after Judicial Watch filed an April 4, 2006, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for “any and all” records pertaining to the Taskforce on Health Care Reform. On November 2, 2007, Judicial Watch was forced to file a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration to obtain the records (Judicial Watch, Inc. v U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (No: 1:07-cv-07-1987)).
In a letter sent to Judicial Watch on October 17, the Supervisor Archivist of the Clinton Presidential Library said, “We have completed processing, according to the provisions of FOIA, the approximately 57,234 pages of Clinton presidential records responsive to … your FOIA request ….” In previous correspondence with Judicial Watch, the National Archives admitted that there are approximately 3,022,030 textual records, 2,884 pages of electronic records, 1,021 photographs, 3 videotapes and 3 audiotapes related to the Judicial Watch’s April 4, 2006, FOIA request. Judicial Watch subsequently agreed to limit its FOIA request to the universe of 1 million responsive documents which include the Task Force staff files and internal documents.
According to Clinton Presidential Library records, “The cabinet-level Task Force, chaired by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was given primary responsibility for providing advice and making recommendations to the President regarding the national health care reform package.” A small category of Health Care Task Force-related documents had previously been released by the Clinton Presidential Library, but the records of the Health Care Task Force itself had not been disclosed.
The release of the actual Task Force records marked another milestone in a nearly decade-long battle by Judicial Watch to obtain the information, dating back to its original 2006 FOIA request. Following its 2007 FOIA lawsuit, Judicial Watch, in February 2008 asked the federal court to deny a National Archives motion to delay the release of any records indefinitely. In May 2008, the court granted the Archives motion, prompting Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton to say, “The Archives processed requests for information about UFOs, while refusing to process requests for important information about a presidential candidate and U.S. Senator. This delay benefits no one but bureaucrats who refuse to do their jobs and politicians running for office.”
In September 2008, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled against the National Archives, refusing to dismiss Judicial Watch’s lawsuit to obtain the Health Care Task Force records. In his ruling, the judge declared, “[The National Archives] argues that [Judicial Watch’s] request is inadequate because it is overbroad…otherwise valid FOIA requests are not overbroad or unreasonable simply because they seek a very large number of documents,” while noting that the Archives “should have been better prepared” to process open records requests related to the Clinton Presidential Library.
In January 2008, Judicial Watch released an earlier batch of records obtained from the Clinton Presidential Library related to the National Taskforce on Health Care Reform revealing:
- A June 18, 1993, internal memorandum containing the startling admission from a staff member: “… I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy… “
- A “Confidential” May 26, 1993, memorandum from Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Hillary Clinton entitled, ‘Health Care Reform Communications,” criticizing the Task Force as a “secret cabal of Washington policy ‘wonks’” that has engaged in “choking off information” from the public regarding health care reform.
- A February 5, 1993, draft memorandum noting the development of an “interest group data base” detailing which organizations” support(ed) us in the election” and tracking personal information about organization leaders, such as their home phone numbers, addresses, “biographies, analysis of credibility in the media, and known relationships with Congress people.”
“We are pleased that the National Archives and Clinton Presidential Library have finally seen fit to stop stonewalling the American people and turn over the records the public should have had access to more than seven years ago,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Clintons could have expedited the release of these records, but for some reason they chose not to. Over the course of the next several weeks, we may find out what those ‘some reasons’ actually were.”