National Whistleblower Day Celebration
It was inspiring to attend the celebration of this year’s National Whistleblower Day in the Kennedy Caucus room of the Russell Senate Office Building. Support for whistleblowers came from an impressive bipartisan group of legislators. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Whistleblowers) was the first legislator to speak. He was also the one who most forcefully noted the success of the False Claims Act in returning what he said was $53 billion to the taxpayers.
Grassley led the charge repeated by many others throughout the day that whistleblowers need protection and he along with other legislators called for supporting the Office of Special Counsel. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) repeated this call and made an impassioned plea in support of whistleblowers and the first amendment. Kathleen Rice (D-New York) Specifically cited new wildlife trafficking whistleblower laws.
Congressman Rod Blum (R-Iowa) continued the call to support the O.S.C. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina) spoke completely off the cuff and made clear that he handles complaints from whistleblowers personally and is happy they provide the information needed to perform oversight of government.
Overall, a bipartisan array of legislators who may not agree on much else, but spoke forcefully and do agree that whistleblowers deserve rights. We need them and their support as the stories from the whistleblowers in the room made clear. There were by one count 4O whistleblowers attending the event. When asked to provide their stories, they gave a lie to the idea that being a whistleblower is easy or that anyone would choose to do the work of whistleblowing as a career enhancement. Most spoke of years of pursuing their causes for years.
Many spoke of how long it took for the government even to recognize a problem, even if that problem involved the potential for literally another 9-11 attack because of the lack of Air Marshall support on planes. Imagine reporting malfeasance in the judiciary or within the FBI as at least four such whistleblowers in attendance did. Does that seem like an easy thing to do? The word courage was used often and with good reason.
Toni Savage, a whistleblower, who reported contracting fraud at the Army Corps of Engineers, told of how she was hounded out of a job and her report suppressed, but she fought back. It sounds like a great movie right? But it took up years of her career and took over her life and it still is not over. The stories of perseverance were inspiring. Nothing came easy to any of the whistleblowers in the room. The laws need to be strengthened to protect all whistleblowers and as was repeatedly pointed out there needs to be consequences for those who retaliate against whistleblowers.
Fortunately, it appears that this position is gaining some traction in Congress. Members of Congress know that if they are going to find out what is really going on in government and provide oversight they need the information only whistleblowers can provide. The legislators made clear they were on the side of whistleblowers and willing to see those who retaliate punished. Hopefully, members of both parties can remember that doing their own jobs effectively includes protecting and providing incentives to the people that can provide key information.