The first White House maneuver took place in October, while much of the public and the media were preoccupied with election news. On Oct. 2, Obama's cash-strapped Illinois pals announced that the federal government bought out the Thomson Correctional Center in western Illinois for $165 million. According to Watchdog.org, a recent appraisal put the value of the facility at $220 million.
Democratic Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin led the lobbying campaign for the deal, along with Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who is overseeing an overall $43 billion state budget deficit and scraping for every available penny. The Thomson campus has been an empty Taj Mahal for more than a decade because profligate state officials had no money for operations. Economic development gurus (using the same phony math of federal stimulus peddlers) claim the newly federalized project will bring in $1 billion.
Durbin told a local Illinois paper that "the decision to move ahead came directly from President Barack Obama" and that he had secured the green light during a discussion on Air Force One earlier in the spring. But this gift to Obama's Illinois homeboys wasn't just a run-of-the-mill campaign favor.
Obama's unilateral and unprecedented decision steamrolled over bipartisan congressional opposition to the purchase. That opposition dates back to 2009, when the White House first floated the idea of using Thomson to house jihadi enemy combatants detained in Cuba. As you may recall, the scheme caused a national uproar. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department's budget, blocked the administration from using unspent DOJ funds for the deal. With bipartisan support, Congress passed a law barring the transfer of Gitmo detainees to Thomson or any other civilian prison.
The message was clear: Taxpayers don't want manipulative Gitmo detainees or their three-ring circuses of transnationalist sympathizers and left-wing lawyers on American soil. Period.
But when this imperial presidency can't get its way in the court of public opinion, it simply circumvents the deliberative process. As Wolf noted: The shady deal "directly violates the clear objection of the House Appropriations Committee and goes against the bipartisan objections of members in the House and Senate, who have noted that approving this request would allow Thomson to take precedence over previously funded prisons in Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Hampshire."