National Whistleblower Day And Congress’ Whistleblower Caucus

It was a great honor to attend the celebration for National Whistleblower day today in the Russell Senate Office Building.The caucus room on the third floor has to be the most ornate setting for a celebration of whistleblower contributions ever. Credit is due the National Whistleblower Center for somehow making that happen. However, one of the participants was not completely satisfied at the locale.  Senator Chuck Grassley (R-qui tam) told us a little story.  He said that he has asked every President since Reagan to have a Rose Garden Ceremony honoring whistleblowers.  Alas none has agreed or Grassley said we would have been over there.  He also told us one President replied to this request by worrying that if there was a Rose Garden Ceremony 3,000 whistleblowers would come out of the wood work.  Indeed, they would and that’s the whole point.

Grassley also noted the great success of the False Claims Act since he brought it back to life in collecting over $42 billion for the treasury.

There was a lot to celebrate in the presence of the 20 or more whistleblowers who attended.  Jane Turner, one of the few great whistleblowers ever to prevail over the FBI, gave an inspirational talk. She reminded the audience, many of whom needed no reminder, of the courage and sacrifice required to speak the truth.

News came that the Senate officially named today National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. See the announcement from the National Whistleblowers Center below.

I think most important for the future of whistleblower law, was the fact that a bi-partisan group of Senators (plus Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California) took turns praising whistleblowers and pledging support for whistleblower legislation.

We have both U.S. Senators from Wisconsin at the moment. They could not be more different on most issues. Tammy Baldwin (D) and Ron Johnson (R) may not agree on much but they both made very clear their support of whistleblower legislation and their support for the rights of whistleblowers generally. More on Wisconsin in a later post.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) received sustained applause, and rightfully so, for noting that we now in fact do have a whistleblower caucus in the U.S. Senate.

It’s a big deal.

Whistleblowers are always, by definition, under attack. Jane Turner talked about the courage whistleblowers need and the difficulties they face, which are just about as serious a set of circumstances as anyone could face.

Whistleblowers need lawyers. But those lawyers cannot help without laws that we can use to fight for their rights. To get those laws enacted and keep them strong we need supportive legislators.  There really is not much in it for Congress people or Senators to support whistleblower legislation.  There is nobody who is going to show up and give you $10 million for your next campaign.  Legislators support this for a simple reason, hard to believe in the current political environment:  It’s the right thing to do.

So to all the whistleblowers on this National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, we honor your patriotic efforts to make the country better. I’d like to take this opportunity to especially note three people I saw at the event, Robert Walker, Barbara Johannaber, and the great Hap Barko who I especially appreciate on this particular day.