Elizabeth "Liz" HempowiczTweet
Director of Public Policy
Year Started at POGO: 2014
Area of expertise: Advocacy Campaigns, Policy Analysis, Freedom of Information Act, Government Accountability, Whistleblower Protections
Elizabeth Hempowicz is POGO’s Director of Public Policy. She oversees POGO’s legislative reform work, with a focus on whistleblower protections and government accountability. Liz develops and advances public policies to combat corruption and to promote openness and accountability in government. She strategizes on the best way to translate POGO report findings into legislative reforms. She has participated in efforts to improve lobbying and congressional ethics rules, whistleblower protections, the Freedom of Information Act, and other open government initiatives. She has testified before Congress and been quoted or appeared in several news outlets. She earned her J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law in 2014, where she served as the Managing Editor of the Legislation & Policy Brief. She earned a B.A. in International Political Economy and Diplomacy at the University of Bridgeport in 2010, where she graduated magna cum laude. Elizabeth is licensed to practice law in the State of New York.
- Appeared on CSPAN's Washington Journal to discuss the rights of and current protections afforded to whistleblowers, February 18, 2017.
- Testified in front of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations on the five year anniversary fo the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and what further legislation is necessary to increase whistleblower protections and reduce retaliation.
- Nominated for Excellence in Advocacy in the Up and Coming Practitioner Category at the 2016 Professional Women in Advocacy Conference
- Testified in front of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on bipartisan legislation introduced to hold supervisors at the VA responsible for retaliating against whistleblowers.
- Appeared on HuffPo Live's Free Speech Zone to discuss a new rule issued by the executive branch and the impact it could have on whistleblowers. (Starting at 9:30)
- Oped with POGO's Danielle Brian "Will you be punished for revealing classified info? Depends who you are"
- Oped with GAP's Shanna Devine in The Hill "Whistleblowers and the Prosecution Loophole"
- Addressed FOIA Professionals at the DOJ as part of a FOIA Best Practices Panel
Concerned organizations warn the Armed Services Committees that the Pentagon’s recent exemption request would undermine FOIA by creating an unnecessary and overbroad secrecy provision that is at odds with FOIA’s goal of transparency and accountability to the public.
Civil society urges the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau not to cut off access to a publicly accessible, user-friendly, searchable system that allows individuals to research companies and services to ensure that they are legitimate and operating legally.
POGO's Danielle Brian sent a letter to President Trump over a year ago detailing some ways he could create meaningful transparency in his administration. Last month we received a response and today we sent a letter requesting a meeting to further discuss our suggestions.
POGO commends Representatives Doggett and Raskin for introducing legislation that would preserve Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative work in the event that he is fired before he completes his investigation.
POGO gathered over three dozen former elected Republicans and Republican-appointed federal judges and prosecutors to call on Senate Republicans to support a bipartisan bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from an unjustified termination.
POGO has asked the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to pass his gavel to another member after an appearance on CBS's Face the Nation where he appeared to disparage Congress' ability to conduct meaningful oversight.
POGO sends an open letter to President Trump saying that any steps his Administration takes to combat the opioid crisis must address this revolving door between government and pharmaceutical companies if it is to successfully stop this growing crisis.
The opioid crisis has been fueled for decades by the legalized corruption created by the revolving door between the government and drug companies, that is why POGO asked Attorney General Jess Sessions to instruct the new opioid crisis task force.
Today POGO joined 28 other concerned civil society organizations in demanding that the Senate refuse to consder the Nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the CIA until they are able to conduct legitimate oversight over her reported role overseeing the torture of detainees at a secret CIA detention site and her participation in a deliberate attempt to avoid accountability by destroying video evidence of CIA torture.
POGO wrote Senate Appropriations Committee leadership to support a grant funding request that would fund the Election Assistance Commission. The money would go toward election cybersecurity training and would ensure the establishment of voting paper trails and post-election audits.
POGO urged the SEC to investigate Carl Icahn, former advisor to President Trump, for possible insider trading as well as whether government officials provided him with non-public, market-moving information.
POGO submitted a complaint to the Office of Special Counsel alleging a Hatch Act Violation by FCC Commissioner Commissioner Michael O’Rielly during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
The Make It Safe Coalition, a coalition of organizations concerned with government accountability, transparency and whistleblower protection, requests the Office of Special Counsel conduct an investigation into the Department of Justice’s violation of anti-gag provisions in the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act in a January 2018 memorandum.
Without a nominee for the vacant Census Bureau Director position, the White House is running afoul of legal requirements to fill the position.
Nonpartisan civil society organizations sent a letter to Members of Congress today urging them to support the bipartisan and bicameral Special Counsel Integrity Act.
Today, POGO joins dozens of civil society organizations in supporting the bipartisan Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA), common-sense legislation that improves Congress’s ability to oversee the Executive branch and provides needed governmental transparency.
POGO's Executive Director, Danielle Brian sent a letter today to the House Financial Services Committee to express our opposition to legislation aimed at protecting industry secrecy at the expense of the American taxpayer.
Civil society expressed it's strong opposition to the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, highlighting that the bill is not reform but an expansion of government surveillance authorities.
Today, POGO sent a letter to the Office of Special Counsel asking that the office open an investigation into a possible violation of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act by Customs and Border Protection.
Members of the Make it Safe Coalition Steering Committee highlight the necessity for legislation to require punishment when supervisors are found to have retaliated against whistleblowers.
Concerned organizations sent a letter to members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives to express concern over the broad interpretation asserted by the House on what records can be considered Congressional records not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
POGO joins ethics watchdogs in asking the Office of Government Ethics to clarify that anonymous contributions from lobbyists to legal defense funds should be prohibited.
POGO joins Cause of Action, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and OpenTheGovernment in opposing a provision in Senator Cornyn's border security bill that would shield all bill implementation from public scrutiny.
Dozens of bipartisan organizations sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions today expressing deep concern over the Department of Justice's extremely broad demand for information on all visitors to a website used to organize protests on Inauguration Day. The request was narrowed after public criticism, however the groups remain concerned.
POGO wrote a letter to the Veterans Affairs Committees in Congress to raise concerns about VA Secretary David Shulkin’s plans to use the recently passed VA Whistleblower Protection and Accountability Act to fire Brian Hawkins, the former director of the VA hospital in Washington, DC. Without speaking to the merits of Hawkins’ allegations against the VA, POGO urged Congress to ensure that the spirit of the law is followed in its implementation.
POGO joins interested organizations in again supporting increased transparency around private detention centers used by the Federal government.
POGO joins members of the Make It Safe Coalition, to applaud the introduction of the Whistleblower Appreciation Day resolution for 2017 and to urge Senators to pass the resolution.
Senator Chuck Grassley has introduced a resolution to again mark July 30 and Whistleblower Appreciation Day. Blowing the whistle on the federal government often comes at a great personal and professional cost, POGO supports this effort to celebrate these brave individuals.
Civil society urges Senate to reconsider closed meetings about defense appropriations bill, and at the very least, to hold a public vote so that constituents may see which of their senators want to authorize more than $600 billion in spending without any public scrutiny.
For the third year in a row, civil society has banded together to oppose the inclusion of a new FOIA exemption for the Pentagon without significant involvement of the committees of jurisdiction over FOIA.
POGO joined 26 groups concerned about transparency and accountability urging the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to improve the transparency and usability of its data.
POGO joined the whistleblower advocacy community in raising red flags about language in a whistleblower protection bill signed by the President.
POGO commends the accountability and reporting mechanisms included in the creation of the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection in this bipartisan legislation.
Last week, news broke that Chairman Hensarling of the Committee on Financial Services in the House instructed Executive Branch agencies to incorrectly apply the legal standards of the Freedom of Information Act. POGO was joined by 20 civil society organizations to object to this action.
Every Congress POGO identifies thirteen policy areas that we believe are ripe for legislative reform. This "Baker's Dozen" includes recommendations for legislation and provides lawmakers with a roadmap for reform for the next two years.
POGO submitted a response to an invitation from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to share our ideas and proposals with on how to uphold and protect the independence and vital role of the Office of Government Ethics and to strengthen ethics in the executive branch.
In testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) said the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, passed in 2012, has made it easier for federal employees to report wrongdoing, but there are significant challenges to enforcement and implementation of the law.
POGO's Policy Counsel, Liz Hempowicz, joins our latest podcast to talk about two good government wins included in the defense budget bill, for information access and whistleblower protections, as well as our hopes for the Inspector General Empowerment Act.
If we don't get Congress to change this secrecy clause in the NDAA, we may be stuck with a Pentagon that cannot be held accountable for wasting taxpayer money. Listen to this 9 minute podcast.
Earlier today, POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian sent a letter to DHS Secretary Johnson commending him for opening a review of DHS's use of private immigration detention centers and urging him to freeze the contracting process on new private centers pending the findings of that review.
Thirty-nine organizations across the political spectrum demand Congress protect FOIA from the Department of Defense's latest attempt to carve itself out from sharing government records.
Like last year, DoD asked the Armed Services Committees to include carve outs to FOIA law for records that go beyond national security information and instead cover innocuous but potentially embarrassing documents.
POGO and 27 good government, transparency, and civil liberties organizations wrote to express strong support for the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 and asked that the House of Representatives vote on and pass this bill as soon as possible. The bill is scheduled to be considered Monday June 13th.
POGO's Executive Director, Danielle Brian, sent a letter to the Senate urging Senators to vote against Dr. Robert Califf's nomination to head the FDA. Based on our in-depth investigation into one of the clinical trials he chaired, POGO concluded he is not fit to be the FDA Administrator.
POGO urged President Obama to withdraw his nominee to head the FDA, Dr. Robert Califf, from Senate consideration.
Thirty civil society organizations push back on lack of clear answers about surveillance activities from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
None of us would be aware of the extent of the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs if not for whistleblowers.
In a letter to the Senate and House Armed Services Committee, POGO outlines key acquisition reform policies, wasteful defense spending in conventional and nuclear weapons and MOX, support for close air support and the A-10, and oversight over risky weapon programs like the littoral combat ship (LCS) and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Implementing the following recommendations will help to the country achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical government—one that is truly responsive to the needs of its citizens.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence recently signaled a growing concern “about the level of protection afforded to whistleblowers within the IC and the level of insight congressional committees have into their disclosures.”
The firing of the Washington, D.C. veterans’ medical center director provides the first test of a new Department of Veterans Affairs accountability and whistleblower protection law.
On the 51st birthday of the Freedom of Information Act, POGO explains what FOIA is and why it continues to matter.
Before Memorial Day recess and with little fanfare, Congress passed legislation to close a significant loophole in the Whistleblower Protection Act. The Follow the Rules Act protects whistleblowers from having to obey orders from a supervisor that would require them to break agency rules or regulations.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has decided they will not disclose the names of visitors to the White House, a giant step backwards from the previous administration.
Congress should expand the law to ensure the Office of Government Ethics has clear, independent authority to investigate complaints and to issue binding corrective and disciplinary actions when there is an ethics violation.
A House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee hearing highlighted that the Committee is seriously considering legislative improvements to whistleblower protections, and is ready and willing to conduct oversight of the administration’s handling of whistleblowers. As always, this oversight is incredibly important.
Congress clashes with the Office of Government Ethics over handling of conflicts-of-interest issues involving the incoming administration and President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees.
Last minute concerns over the IG Empowerment Act of 2015 may delay necessary legislation until next Congress.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 no longer contains a provision that would strip the public of its ability to obtain information regarding Pentagon operations under the Freedom of Information Act.
Instead of halting new contracts while it reviews whether or not to continue using private detention centers, ICE moves in on one of Bureau of Prisons’ newly vacant private prisons.
There is one undeniable fact surrounding Snowden’s circumstances that has been misreported by Congress and the Executive Branch far too many times: the Intelligence Community (IC) contractor would have had almost no protections had he come forward through proper channels.
FBI Director Comey highlighted the culture change necessary to utilize whistleblower complaints, but legislation is still necessary to protect the jobs of those whistleblowers. The House and Senate have offered a bill that would do that.
POGO broke down some of the biggest improvements in the freshly signed FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.
Last week, an order and opinion by United States District Judge Andrew S. Hanen provided some rare transparency into a case of DOJ attorney misconduct.
The methodology in an annual agency FOIA survey leaves much to be desired. The Office of Information Policy should take a closer look at how agencies are implementing FOIA.
Issues POGO raised in a 2008 report about the Office of Special Counsel were addressed in a recent House Bill.
The House of Representatives passed the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, the bipartisan answer to problems that have plagued those who use the Freedom of Information Act for years. It is now up to the Senate to pass this important legislation and get it to the President’s desk.
POGO was joined by 21 other civil society organizations across the political spectrum in requesting Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough to investigate whether the Insider Threat Program is being used to improperly target whistleblowers like Thomas Drake.
Another example of the double standard within the armed services for infractions regarding classified information.
POGO supports the bipartisan Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2015.
New Speaker of the House Paul Ryan should retire the "Hastert Rule" and lead the House of Representatives back to a place where genuine debate guides the legislating process.
President Obama made good on his promise to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, largely because of the use of the Overseas Contingency Operations account as a Pentagon slush fund.
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression has weighed in on whistleblower protections, highlighting especially the need to provide protections to employees in the national security field.
The Hillary Clinton email scandal illustrates the disparity in the treatment of high-level officials to that of whistleblowers.
Far too often, whistleblowers are unfairly punished for their efforts to bring accountability to the armed services, and the systems in place to protect them are completely inadequate.
The annual behemoth defense spending bill has become the method of choice for a lot of elected officials to shuttle unpopular legislation through Congress in near secrecy.
POGO urged the Members of the House of Representatives to vote against an amendment to HR 2822 that would prohibit the use of funds to increase oil and gas royalty rates, meaning that Americans could miss out on millions of dollars in revenue.
U.S. Central Command is misusing the Freedom of Information Act to hide a report on war crimes in Afghanistan.
POGO commented on a proposed rule regarding sensitive national security positions in the government back in 2013. Unfortunately, according to a notice published today, that rule remains largely unchanged and will be made final soon.
With little fanfare, the Senate Armed Services Committee finally released its NDAA report—and with it, the rulebreaking roll call vote from April 23, 2015. A month after the vote was held.
The secretive Senate Armed Services Committee vote to hold debate on the National Defense Authorization Act in a closed session broke more rules than originally thought.
The House Appropriations Committee has decided to maintain a ban on the Congressional Research Service’s ability to publish its reports, holding tight to symbolic congressional control of this information.
Newly released FOIA documents show that a social media campaign about FOIA legislation caught the attention of Capitol Hill staffers and helped move the bill through the Senate last Congress.
We only have a few days left to persuade the Senate Armed Services Committee to support public hearings on the more than $600 billion Pentagon budget.
Not only does the Senate Armed Services Committee want to debate their behemoth authorization bill in secret, they want to do so by disregarding their own committee rules.
The final turn in Petraeus’s case—his sentence—would be laughable if it wasn’t so insulting to the national security whistleblowers who face decades in prison for leaking classified information in order to stop our government from acting illegally or unconstitutionally, in a way that endangers American lives.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to keep this year’s National Defense Authorization Act markup behind closed doors.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will discuss whether their upcoming markups on the massive Pentagon budget should be done in public – something that the House does in the open but their Senate counterparts have historically refused to do.
Freshman Representative introduces toughest anti-revolving door legislation yet, targeting his colleagues that go from elected office to lobbying.
So close to his retirement, Senator Harry Reid has displayed a confusing and alarming change of heart towards whistleblowers, recently calling those who alleged he was involved in political wrongdoing "a bunch of whiners."
Although Sunshine Week 2015 is over, there are still so many areas of government that would benefit from increased transparency and openness.
The reintroduced SANE Act, if passed, would save taxpayers an estimated $100 billion dollars over the next 10 years, in part by implementing reforms that POGO has been advocating for years.
Holding debates and markups in secret is the antithesis of open government, and the Senate Armed Services Committee should consider opening up its doors to the public.
This Sunshine Week, the Project On Government Oversight joins over 20 other organizations in asking the White House to get actively involved in the fight for openness.
The Project On Government Oversight was joined by a group of concerned organizations and individuals in writing Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to express our concern about Maj. Gen. James Posts' statement and the implications it has on military whistleblowers.
POGO once again reaches out to the FDA to ask the agency to make public any potential financial conflicts of interests of its advisers.
POGO’s Congressional Oversight Initiative has begun to create an online database of each committee's and subcommittee’s subpoena and deposition rules, and is reaching out to congressional staff for opinions on how these rules help or hinder bipartisan cooperation and effective oversight.
Congressional oversight of national security issues has not inspired much confidence recently; however, the new House has a chance to adopt new procedural rules and improve its ability to carry out meaningful oversight.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously passed Freedom of Information Act reform laws in this past year, yet the 113th Congress ended without sending any FOIA legislation to the President. How last minute lobbying quietly killed widely supported bipartisan FOIA reform.
With one month left in the 113th Congress, FOIA reform looks more promising than ever. POGO is hopeful that the Senate will be able to move S. 2520 fast enough to see the significant reform passed into law before the new year.
The Department of Energy's Inspector General has yet to deliver answers about the firing of whistleblower Dr. James Doyle and the underlying ambiguous classification procedures used by DOE and its contractors.
Last week was a busy one for FOIA advocates, and POGO offers a short roundup of some of the events that took place.
In a recent Harvard Law & Policy Review article, Yochai Benkler, law professor and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, introduced the idea of a “public accountability defense,” especially for national security whistleblowers.
The Department of Energy Inspector General will investigate Dr. James Doyle's termination for any impropriety from DOE.
POGO joins 10 other groups asking the FCC to require radio stations to post political ad spending information to an online database.