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GAP Praises Legislation Aimed at Safeguarding Taxpayer Dollars
(Washington, D.C.) -- The Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised Senator Daniel Akaka and a bipartisan group of 11 other sponsors for today’s introduction of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA).
The legislation is identical to that unanimously approved last December by the Senate with one exception – removal of a loophole that would have excluded anti-retaliation protection for disclosures of “trivial” illegality which is minor, inadvertent, and occurs during the conscientious carrying out of official duties.
The bill includes protection for national security whistleblowers that the House removed last December after objections by retiring member Pete Hoekstra (R.-Mich.), the former ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Although both parties agreed to the removal and the bill passed that chamber unanimously, GAP has learned over the last several weeks that House Republican leadership secretly asked Senate Republican leadership to block the legislation’s passage, and the shrunken bill was killed on December 22 by a "secret hold" hours before Congress adjourned (see more below).
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine expressed appreciation for the bipartisan persistence by Senators Akaka, Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa), Joseph Lieberman (I.-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R.-Maine), stating: “These four Senate offices have been a bipartisan 'Good Government Gang of Four' with a marathon commitment since 2000 to pass this reform for both taxpayers and the public servants who defend them against bureaucratic abuses.” Devine explained “The whistleblower bill always has had bipartisan public support, but these offices defend whistleblowers behind closed doors as well.”
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This past weekend, GAP and the NPR show On The Media (OTM) announced an end to their "Blow the Whistle" campaign, which sought to identify which U.S. Senator placed a 'secret hold' during the final hours of the last session of Congress, killing the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). The crowd-sourcing effort, which relied on citizens to contact their respective senators and report back findings, led GAP and OTM to eliminate all but two senators during the three month campaign.
A shocking revelation about the 'secret hold' emerged during the campaign. According to GAP, based on multiple sources inside congressional offices, one of the two remaining senators killed the bill at the request of Republican leadership in the House of Representatives
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine commented, "Whistleblowers risk their professional lives to fight government fraud, waste and abuse. How can taxpayers trust any politician who campaigns on that pledge, and then secretly kills rights for government workers who risk their careers to deliver it? House leadership owes taxpayers an explanation as to why they started sabotaging those campaign promises just weeks after the election, before they even began governing. Even more important, Speaker John Boehner owes taxpayers a commitment that this will not happen again."
GAP and OTM are able to confirm, based primarily on information from our supporters and listeners (respectively), that all but two senators were not responsible for the hold on the bill. The final, remaining suspects are Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona, and Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Both Senate offices have steadfastly refused to identify which one formally placed the hold. But the distinction is academic. Four times now since 2004, these two senators have taken turns placing holds that blocked Senate action on the WPEA.
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Senator James Risch’s (R-ID) office has confirmed that he had no policy objections to S. 372 last Congress. The Senator’s office held firm to its policy that “it dos not comment on secret holds”; however, through deductive reasoning, he does not fit the bill, so to speak. In turn, GAP has removed Senator Risch from the tapering list of prospective senators that placed the hold on S. 372.
That leaves Senators John Kyl and Jeff Sessions, both part of the Senate leadership team. Four times now since 2004, their offices have taken turns placing holds that blocked Senate action on the WPEA. As reported earlier, Sen. McConnell’s office has denied placing the hold, and Sen. Kyl provided a rather cryptic response to your queries:
“The Senate passed S. 372 on Dec 14, 2010 and the House passed a different version of the legislation on Dec 22. With only hours left in the session, the Senate did not have sufficient time to review the House’s changes and reconcile the differences between the two bills.”
Read more on Sen. Kyl’s response here.
Be sure to tune in this weekend to On The Media, GAP’s partner in the campaign, when GAP Legal Director Tom Devine and the OTM staff will announce the end of the campaign, reveal what we’ve found, and explain where we go from here!
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.
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This weekend, GAP and On The Media will conclude our campaign to identify the senator who placed the anonymous hold on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), effectively killing the bill at the end of the last congressional term. GAP Legal Director Tom Devine will wrap up the campaign and its findings on On The Media.
Since the campaign began in early January, we were able to rule out nearly every senator as being a suspect. After the list of prospective senators was narrowed down to five (as a result of your steadfast advocacy!), over 1,000 people signed our Change.org petition urging these remaining senators to either confirm or deny placing the hold. This increased pressure allowed us to further eliminate Senator McConnell and Senator Vitter, leaving only Senator Risch, Senator Kyl, and Senator Sessions as potential suspects.
Please check with your local NPR station to see what time On The Media will air this weekend, and tune in to listen to Tom Devine speak about the conclusion of the campaign, and where we're going from here!
Additionally, GAP wishes to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our supporters who participated in our campaign. Because of your efforts, whistleblower rights for all federal employees are closer to becoming a reality.
Lindsay Bigda is Communications Fellow for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.
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First off, thank you. You've already responded to GAP and the NPR show On The Media's campaign to identify the senator who put the "secret hold" on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). We've seen results (because of you!) in eliminating Sen. John McCain as a suspect.
But one of your senators, Jon Kyl, is one of only three senators left who has not confirmed or denied placing the hold.
Furthermore, Senator Kyl is a particularly interesting subject. He's been contacted no less than 12 times regarding this issue by his constituents - and it appears that his press secretary is dodging calls on the matter. In response to emails, at least three constituents have received the following letter from Sen. Kyl:
“Thank you for contacting me about the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S.372) . The Senate passed S. 372 on Dec 14, 2010 and the House passed a different version of the legislation on Dec 22. With only hours left in the session, the Senate did not have sufficient time to review the House’s changes and reconcile the differences between the two bills.“
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Dear Alabaman Supporters of Whistleblowers:
First off, thank you. You've already responded to GAP and the NPR show On The Media's campaign to identify the senator who put the "secret hold" on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). We know that you understand why this is important, and we've seen results in eliminating Sen. Richard Shelby as a suspect.
But one of your senators, Jeff Sessions, is one of only three senators left who has not confirmed or denied placing the hold.
Furthermore, we know -- from the Senator's staff directly -- that Senator Sessions believes that his actions regarding secret holds "are private," and therefore not a matter of his constituents' concerns. From your notes: Jeff Sessions' aide Caroline explained to caller on 1-19-2011 that anonymous holds are 'anonymous' and that he is 'very private.' Subsequent calls have gotten similar responses.
The senator has been contacted no less than twelve times
on this issue from people like you. Which leads us to a question:
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Dear Idahoan Supporters of Whistleblowers:
First off, thank you for your actions. You already know that GAP is teaming up with the NPR show On The Media to identify the Senator who put the "secret hold" on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). We know that you understand why this is important (we've seen your actions and results in contacting Sen. Risch and Sen. Crapo). And you know that one of them -- James Risch -- is one of only three senators left who has not confirmed or denied placing the hold.
It's time for all of us to step up the campaign. Because of your efforts and according to your notes, Specifically, according to your notes:
"Press Secretary Kyle Hines, as well as other staffers have repeatedly told callers that the Senator does not comment on Secret Holds. Hines has said "That's his policy - that's his right" and "He just doesn't comment on them."
Really? Really? It's the senator's right to keep his views and actions on government transparency private, and not have to explain them to his constituents?