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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

The "Secret Five": Either Jon Kyl, Mitch McConnell, James Risch, Jeff Sessions, or David Vitter Secretly Killed the Whistleblower Bill

Dylan Blaylock, February 22, 2011

On the final day of the previous session of Congress, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), S. 372, which would have strengthened rights for federal employees who report corruption, was killed by a lone senator's decision to place an anonymous "secret hold" on the bill.

In response to this action, GAP teamed up with the NPR show On The Media (OTM) to identify the culpable senator. OTM asked its listeners, and GAP asked its supporters, to contact their respective senators’ offices and demand to know if they were the party who wrongfully killed this paramount legislation. Click here to check out all the responses so far.

It's working. 82 out of 87 Senate offices have confirmed that they were not the party responsible for placing the secret hold. (Why 87? That's how many individuals continue to serve in the Senate from last term. Through internal connections, GAP is confident that these other 13 individuals are very unlikely to have placed the hold.)

Which means there's only five left. Here's who they are, with notes from a GAP/OTM supporter about the most recent correspondence (each of these senators’ offices has been contacted many, many times):

Jon Kyl (R-AZ): "(2/22) Left numerous messages with Press Secretary Ryan Patmintra's Cell phone and Communications Director Andrew Wilder's cell phone -- Kyl's office has sent the following letter to constituents: 'The Senate passed S. 372 on December 14, 2010, and the House passed a different version on December 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.'”

Mitch McConnell (R-KY): "(2/17) Left message with Allison Moore in the Press Office, who said she would look into it. (2/22) Don Stewart also said he would look into it and get back to us, but that it might take a while because the Senate is in recess this week.”

James Risch (R-ID): "(2/22) Press Secretary Kyle Hines says that the Senator's policy is not to comment on secret holds 'That's his policy - that's his right.' and 'He just doesn't comment on them.' Said he would talk to the Senator and get back to caller in the next day or two.”

Jeff Sessions (R-AL): "(2/22) In spite of numerous calls, Sessions' staff will not directly answer the question. Left messages/emails for Press Secretary Sarah Haley.”

David Vitter (R-LA): "(2/22) Luke Bolar, spokesman at Vitter's office said he would get back to caller."

We're close. This is going to work. We're going to find out who killed this bill aimed at protecting federal whistleblowers. For more details, check out our press release from earlier today. Stay tuned -- we'll be targeting these five in the next few days.

Senator Kyl’s response is especially puzzling, given his office’s stamp of approval for the relevant portion of the bill weeks prior to the secret hold (A memo of what happened in the final days of last Congress can be found here). After the Senate passed S. 372, the House removed the national security provision, in an attempt to assuage Red Herring Wikileaks’ concerns. The language in the House-approved bill (rights for non-intel workers) had already received thorough Senate consideration and approval. Regardless, a final Senate vote was required, which gave way to the secret hold.

We invite this lone Senator to come out of the closet and explain to his constituents and colleagues why he anonymously blocked this government accountability bill.

Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.