Government Accountability Project: 40 Public Interest Organizations Announce “Washington Whistleblower Week,” May 14-18
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2007
CONTACT: Government Accountability Project
Adam Miles, Legislative Representative
Phone: 202.408.0034 ext. 132, cell 202.276.2007
40 Public Interest Organizations Announce “Washington Whistleblower Week,” May 14-18
Groups Urge Quick Senate Action on Whistleblower Rights Legislation
WASHINGTON - May 2 – The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is joining 40 national public interest groups and hundreds of whistleblowers from across the country in sponsoring “Washington Whistleblower Week,” to be held May 14-18, 2007.
The week’s events are designed to highlight contributions whistleblowers have made in society and to promote protections for whistleblowers who risk their careers to challenge abuses of the public trust. Supporting organizations view Washington Whistleblower Week as an opportunity to build on the momentum created by a historic vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, which on March 14 passed H.R. 985, the “Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007.” The 331-94 vote is strong enough to override a potential White House veto, which was threatened on the day prior to the vote.
“The House vote on H.R. 985 represents the most significant breakthrough for whistleblower rights in U.S. history,” stated GAP Legislative Representative Adam Miles. “With the exception of a few hold-outs in the White House, everyone agrees that government accountability is a good idea. These events will help show the Bush administration that the public demands these reforms and enthusiastically supports Congress’ efforts to enact stronger whistleblower protections.”
“The House of Representatives whistled the truth,” added GAP Legal Director Tom Devine. “If the Senate follows suit, this reform will be the strongest government employee whistleblower law ever passed by Congress.”
To launch the week’s activities on Monday, May 14, GAP, ACLU, National Whistleblower Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, Taxpayers Against Fraud and other groups are hosting and/or participating in a series of panels beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the Russell Senate office building, Room 325. The panels are designed to highlight congressional efforts to enhance whistleblower protections and other oversight initiatives, with speakers including Jeffrey Wigand, the subject of the movie “The Insider,” and TIME Co-person of the Year and FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley, among many others.
The tentative agenda is below (All times tentative; an update will be sent shortly):
Monday, May 14th – Senate Russell Building 325
10:30 – 11:30: Whistleblower Protection Act Legislation – The Need for Reform
Facilitator: Tom Devine, GAP Legal Director
Keynote: Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen
Panelists: Staff, Office of Representative Todd Platts
Bogdan Dzakovic, Transportation Security Administration, FAA Red Team Whistleblower
(invited) Dr. David Graham, Food and Drug Administration, Vioxx Whistleblower
Background: A series of court rulings since 1994 has made it impossible for whistleblowers to protect themselves when they speak out to protect the public. Last Congress, the Senate unanimously approved legislation that would overturn these hostile decisions and overhaul the broken WPA. This Congress, on March 14, 2007, the House passed H.R. 985, the “Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007.” This panel will discuss the need for these reforms and the prospects of enacting them during this Congress.
11:30 – 12:30: Congressional Oversight of the FBI
Facilitator: Steve Kohn, President, National Whistleblower Center
Keynote: Senator Charles Grassley
Panelists: Coleen Rowley, TIME Person of the Year, and Former FBI Special Agent
Michael German, ACLU, Former FBI Special Agent
Background: Whistleblowers have long played an important role in Congressional oversight of the FBI. This is increasingly the case after September 11, with frequent breakdowns in communication threatening U.S. national and homeland security. This panel will consider the efforts made by Former Special Agents Rowley and German to break through the institutional walls at the Bureau, and the changes that are still necessary to confront bureaucratic threats to national security.
12:30 – 2:00: Luncheon Panel on Scientific and Medical Integrity and Individual Conscience
Facilitator: Mark Cohen, GAP Food and Drug Safety Director
Panelists: (invited) Representative Ed Markey
Jeffrey Wigand, Tobacco Industry whistleblower, subject of the movie “The Insider”
Susan Wood, former Director, FDA Office of Women’s Health
Rick Piltz, former Senior Associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program
Francesca Grifo, Director, Scientific Integrity Program, Union of Concerned Scientists
Background: Thousands of scientists, including numerous Nobel laureates, have signed petitions accusing the Bush administration of misusing and distorting scientific data to advance political objectives and curry favor with big business supporters. This panel will consider the techniques of the tobacco and fossil fuel lobbies, and the Christian Right, to undermine science, and the role of individuals of conscience in standing up for the scientific truth.
2:00 – 3:00: The False Claims Act: Successes and Challenges Ahead
(Location for this panel TBD)
Facilitator: Joseph E. B. (Jeb) White, director of legal education,
Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund
Panelists: Stephen D. Altman, Stephen D. Altman, PLLC, Washington, D.C., former Assistant Director of DOJ Commercial Litigation Branch
Janet Chandler, Ph.D., whistleblower in landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision
Robert L. Vogel, Vogel & Slade, LLP, Washington, D.C., False Claims Act Qui Tam Attorney
Background: Since the False Claims Act (FCA) was amended nearly twenty years ago, whistleblowers have played a pivotal role in returning nearly $20 billion in stolen funds to the U.S. Treasury. The remarkable success of the Act is largely because of the unique public-private partnership established under the Act, which not only encourages whistleblowers to report misconduct, but actually empowers them to investigate and prosecute fraudfeasors on behalf of the federal government. States have also taken notice of this success and over thirty of them have either passed their own FCA or are currently considering similar legislation. This panel will highlight the success of state and federal FCAs and will provide a glimpse behind the public-private mechanism driving this success.
3:00 – 4:00: Oversight of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel
(Location for this panel TBD)
Facilitator: Adam Miles, legislative representative, GAP
Panelists: Debbie Katz, Katz, Marshal and Banks
Natresha Dawson, Office of Special Counsel (OSC) whistleblower
(invited) Gabe Bruno, Former FAA Manager
(invited) Representative from OSC
Background: The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) recently announced it is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into possible improper political activity by members of the White House, including Karl Rove. The investigation is being initiated at the same time that a White House entity, called the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, is completing its own investigation of Special Counsel Scott Bloch. This panel will consider the merits of both investigations and discuss what government employees should expect when they turn to OSC after being retaliated against for blowing the whistle.
In addition to GAP, sponsoring organizations of Washington Whistleblower Week include: the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the National Whistleblower Center, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers Against Fraud, the Liberty Coalition, Openthegovernment.org, OMB Watch, People for the American Way, National Employment Lawyers Association, Whistleblowers USA, Common Cause, U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation, and many others.
Another event will be the Whistleblower “Tribunal,” to be held in the Cannon House Office Building from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Tuesday, May 15. Whistleblowers will present dramatic personal stories about how their actions served to protect tens or millions of their fellow citizens.
On Wednesday, May 16, the National Whistleblower Center will be hosting a series of practical workshops for whistleblowers and continuing legal education programs for whistleblower and employment attorneys. For more information, go to www.whistleblowers.org.
Also on Wednesday, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Whistleblower Coalition will host sessions on reprisal against VA whistleblowers. For more information, go to www.vawbc.com.
Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Seattle, WA.