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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

Jeff Sessions Doesn’t Think Alabamans Have a Right to Know His Views?

Lindsay Bigda, March 04, 2011

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:

Why does Senator Sessions consider whistleblower protection to be something that his constituents don’t have a right to know his position on?  

It's time for all of us to step up the campaign. Do you think, as an Alabaman, that it's your senator's right to keep his views and actions on government transparency private, and not have to explain them to his constituents? 

That doesn't sit well with us. We don’t think it sits well with you either. 

You have the power to get answers. Nothing is more influential to senators than hearing concerns from their constituents. Let's call him out on his policy of secret holds, and his apparent belief that his views on certain issues should be kept from his public. Here's a way to proceed. 

First, when you call the Senator’s office, make clear that you are a constituent. You may need to verify your name and hometown. Often, the secretary will ask what your call is in regard to. You can respond that you are calling in regard to a public campaign involving “secret holds.” Even if you are only able to leave a message, please record your communication accordingly. Then, here are some questions that you should consider asking: 

1) What is Senator Sessions' policy on issuing secret holds? Does he place them, and has he issued them in the past? 

2) Does the Senator think there are issues that his constituents do not have the right to know his position on?

3) Specifically, what issues does Senator Sessions believe his constituents do not have the right to know his position on? 

4) I understand that Senator Sessions is one of only four senators who has not confirmed or denied placing a secret hold on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act -- also known as the WPEA or S. 372 -- on the last day of Congress in December. Is this correct, that the Senator has not denied objecting to this bill’s passage? 

5) What is the Senator’s basis for not telling the public whether he blocked enactment of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act?

Please consider taking five minutes out of your day and contacting Sen. Sessions' office, at 202.221.4124. Please consider emailing the suggested questions as well, to ensure the most comprehensive response and to demonstrate persistence! Please keep track of how many times you contact the Senator’s office. You should ask to speak to one of the following people, and let them know that their responses (or lack thereof) may be shared on a public website:

Sarah Haley (Press Secretary) 
Sarah_Haley@sessions.senate.gov

Sandra Luff (Legislative Director) 
Sandy_luff@sessions.senate.gov

Then, email GAP directly back about what you've found. Again, detailed notes are important. We'll share your experiences with On The Media, and your notes may be quoted on their website (we won't print your name, unless you indicate otherwise). Send your correspondence to GAP Communications Director Dylan Blaylock at dylanb@whistleblower.org, with "Sessions Response" in the subject line.

You can make a difference. Please help us fight for government accountability.

Lindsay Bigda is Communications Fellow for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.