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

Judicial Watch President Takes Helm of Council for National Policy's Executive Committee

Judicial Watch President Thomas Fitton is the 2022 president of the Council for National Policy, the Center for Media and Democracy reported.[9] Fitton took over the position leading the influential Christian Right group from William Walton.

Judicial Watch Investigations Director is an Oath Keepers Paying Member

Hate Watch, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center, identified Christopher Farrell, the director of investigations and a board member at Judicial Watch as a paying member of the antigovernment extremist Oath Keepers.[10]

"Farrell is listed twice in the leaked document. The first membership status is listed as 'Liberty Tree.' According to the Oath Keepers website, this membership sustains the group and provides the member with discounts on Oath Keepers merchandise," Hate Watch reported.[10]

"Farrell is listed as an 'annual' member in another entry. The entry lists a different address and spelling of Farrell’s first name, but the same email and a comment: 'I currently serve as the Director of Investigations and Research for Judicial Watch (1999 to present).' The entry is undated," Hate Watch found.[10]

"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.[11] 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."[12]

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.[13]

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."[14]

The Commission disbanded after being unable to show any evidence of voter fraud of the proportion Trump implied in the 2016 election.[15]

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.[16] In 2018, The BBC called that theory a conspiracy "based on little or no evidence."[17]

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."[18]

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 Council for National Policy

As of February 2022, Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton is the president of the Council for National Policy's Executive Committee.[19]

Council for National Policy

The Council for National Policy (CNP) is a secretive, Christian Right organization of funders and activists founded in 1981 by activist Morton Blackwell, commentator Paul Weyrich, direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie, right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly and Left Behind author Tim LaHaye. Anne Nelson's book about CNP, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, describes how the organization connects "the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of Western plutocrats and the strategy of right-wing Republican political operatives.”

CNP membership as of September 2020 is available here.

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.[20] SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 48 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. As of June 2024, SPN's membership totals 167. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2022 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $152 million.[21] 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.[22]

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.'"[23]

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.[24]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

Judicial Watch's Russel Noblile attended the Task Force Chairs Meeting at the American Legislative Exchange Council's 2020 States and Nation Policy Summit.

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our ExposedbyCMD.org site.


Judicial Watch is not required to disclose its donors, but some of its funding sources are known through the IRS filings of other organizations. Judicial Watch's known funders include:

Early 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.[25]

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.[26]

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $102,787,643
  • Total Expenses: $57,385,244
  • Net Assets: $313,631,449

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $124,212,420
  • Total Expenses: $57,474,581
  • Net Assets: $312,110,219

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $109,973,904
  • Total Expenses: $60,400,307
  • Net Assets: $238,600,573

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $91,200,569
  • Total Expenses: $49,144,797
  • Net Assets: $166,392,924

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $71,740,368
  • Total Expenses: $40,431,062
  • Net Assets: $110,041,633

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $53,061,725
  • Total Expenses: $32,128,134
  • Net Assets: $89,507,455

Grants Distributed


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

Grants Distributed


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


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


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


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



As of March 2022:[37]

  • Thomas Fitton, President, Board Member, Officer
  • Paul Orfanedes, Director of Litigation, Board Member, Officer
  • Chris Farrell, Director of Research and Investigations, Board Member
  • Robert Sticht, Senior Counsel
  • Jason Aldrich, Attorney
  • Michael Bekesha, Attorney
  • Lauren Burke, Attorney
  • Ramona Cotca, Attorney
  • Eric Lee, Attorney
  • James Peterson, Attorney
  • Bob Popper, Attorney
  • T. Russell Nobile, Attorney
  • Christina Rotaru, Paralegal
  • David Rothstein, Paralegal
  • Kara Bell, Paralegal
  • Angelo Martin, Paralegal
  • Sean Dunagan, Senior Investigator
  • Bill Marshall, Senior Investigator
  • Geoff Lyon, Investigative Counsel
  • Kate Bailey, FOIA Program Manager
  • Kirsti Jespersen, Investigator
  • Justin McCarthy, Research Associate
  • Mark Spencer, Southwest Project Coordinator
  • Patrick Francescon, Investigator
  • Irene Garcia, Investigative Reporter
  • Micah Morrison, Chief Investigative Reporter
  • Jill Farrell, Director of Public Affairs
  • Amelia Koehn, Public Affairs Coordinator
  • Matt Miano – Broadcast Coordinator
  • Tatiana Venn, Digital Strategy Associate
  • Troy Donovan, Broadcast Associate
  • Shawn Ouellette, Broadcast Associate
  • Steve Andersen, Director of Development
  • Meagan Pfalzer, Director of Development Operations
  • John Albertella, Director of Direct Marketing
  • Ariana Azizkeya, Direct Response Marketing Manager
  • Tim Wathen, Direct Marketing Production & Traffic Manager
  • Arleen Godfrey, Direct Marketing Production & Traffic Manager
  • Angel Azar, Regional Development Manager
  • Steve Sheldon, Regional Development Manager
  • Jim Petruzzello, Regional Development Manager
  • James Campbell, Digital Fundraising Manager
  • Candice Velazquez, Manager of Planned and Major Gift Operations
  • Elise Schubert, Development Coordinator
  • Scott Walsh, Regional Development Manager
  • Ashley Taylor, Development Coordinator
  • Tim Gray, Controller
  • Stephen Wilson, Financial Operations Manager
  • Janice Rurup, Special Assistant to the President
  • Darlene Robinson, Accounts Payable Clerk
  • Tiara Darby, HR/Operations Manager

Former Staff

  • Christopher Fedeli – Attorney
  • Sterling “Ernie” Norris – Attorney
  • Carter Clews – Director of Communications
  • Brandon Cockerham – Public Affairs Assistant
  • John Britten – Director of Digital Strategy
  • Michael Love – Digital Media Associate
  • Mike Aquila – Digital Media Associate
  • Mark Spencer – Southwest Project 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
  • Connie Ruffley – Executive Assistant, CA

Board of Directors

As of March 2022:[38]

  • Tom Fitton, President
  • Paul Orfanedes, Director of Litigation
  • Chris Farrell, Director of Investigations & Research

Contact Information

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/

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990s










  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. David Armiak, Revealed: New Leaders of Council for National Policy Set Extremist Agenda, ExposedbyCMD, March 11, 2022.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Creede Newton, Judicial Watch Investigations Director Listed As Dues-paying Oath Keeper, Leak Shows, Hate Watch, November 2, 2021.
  11. Christopher Deluzio and Myrna Pérez With Midterms Looming, Conservative Groups Push Aggressive Voter Purges Brennan Center for Justice, June 25, 2018
  12. Judical Watch Florida Letter Judicial Watch, April 11 2017
  13. Brennan Center Civil Rights Groups Launch National Effort to Combat Alarming Voter Purge Attempt Press Release, Nov 22, 2017
  14. 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
  15. Charles Stewart III [1] 'The Washington Post Jan. 4 2018
  16. Judicial Watch ‘Credible evidence’ points to ‘hanky panky’ in Seth Rich case Recommended News, May 29 2017
  17. Charlie Mole Seth Rich: How a young man's murder attracted conspiracy theories The BBC April 21 2018
  18. W. Gardner Selby Judicial Watch says ISIS operating a camp in Mexico--near El Paso Politifact April 17 2017
  19. David Armiak, Revealed: New Leaders of Council for National Policy Set Extremist Agenda, ExposedbyCMD, March 11, 2022.
  20. State Policy Network, Directory, State Policy Network, accessed July 2018
  21. David Armiak, State Policy Network and Affiliates Raises $152 Million Annually to Push Right-Wing Policies, ExposedbyCMD, September 30, 2022.
  22. 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.
  23. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  24. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  25. Media Transparency, Judicial Watch, organizational website, archived by WayBack Machine on December 19, 2005.
  26. Conservative Transparency Judicial Watch American 21st century bridge foundation, accessed July 2018
  27. Judicial Watch, 2022 IRS Form 990, Judicial Watch, August 21, 2023.
  28. Judicial Watch, 2021 IRS Form 990, Judicial Watch, July 28, 2022.
  29. Judicial Watch, 2020 IRS Form 990, Judicial Watch, July 28, 2021.
  30. Judicial Watch, 2019 IRS Form 990, Judicial Watch, June 25, 2020.
  31. Judicial Watch, 2018 IRS Form 990, Judicial Watch, June 3, 2019.
  32. Judicial Watch, 2017 IRS Form 990, Judicial Watch, June 11, 2018.
  33. Judicial Watch, 2016 IRS Form 990, ProPublica, June 30, 2016.
  34. Judicial Watch, 2015 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, June 3, 2016.
  35. Judicial Watch, 2014 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, June 9, 2015.
  36. 36.0 36.1 Judicial Watch, 2013 IRS Form 990, May 19, 2014.
  37. Judicial Watch, Staff, organizational website, accessed March 2022.
  38. Judicial Watch, Board of Directors, organizational website, accessed March 2022.