Director of Investigations
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Nick Schwellenbach rejoined POGO as director of investigations in February 2017. Previously, he was the communications director at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. He was POGO’s director of investigations from 2010 to 2012 and was an investigator from 2004 through 2008. He also was a senior fiscal policy analyst with the Center for Effective Government and a staff writer with the Center for Public Integrity. Mr. Schwellenbach received his B.A. in history from the University of Texas-Austin and his M.A. in journalism from American University.
Nick’s work for POGO on excessive secrecy covering up serious misconduct by Justice Department attorneys won the Society of Professional Journalists-D.C. Chapter’s Robert D.G. Lewis Watchdog Award in 2015, its highest prize. He has led investigations into revolving door at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), labor trafficking by the U.S. military’s subcontractors in Iraq, whistleblower retaliation within the Department of Homeland Security, mismanagement of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 program, and many other topics.
The Veterans Affairs Department removed from its website a management communication to its workforce that denounced hate in the wake of Charlottesville and that expressed the VA's commitment to diversity and inclusion. There is no public notice that the material was removed. After the communication was removed from the website, the VA official who wrote it left the VA.
It is relatively rare for politicians to face criminal prosecution despite the perception that they work for big campaign donors rather than for their own constituents. A number of Supreme Court decisions partly explain why so few cases are brought.
In recent months, a political bribery scandal has gripped Alabama, ensnaring one state lawmaker and casting attention on the actions of other Alabama politicians, including the one ultimately responsible for overseeing the bribery case and potential environmental litigation: Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Previously unreported documents obtained by the Project On Government Oversight shows the lead fundraiser for Senator Luther Strange’s reelection campaign is connected to an ongoing federal public corruption investigation.
An ongoing federal investigation in Alabama involves a powerful law firm and coal company with deep connections to Attorney General Sessions and Senator Strange.
Who has the ability credibility, and independence to perform an effective and fair investigation during a breaking national scandal, disaster, or crisis?
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memorandum to its employees on May 3, 2017, that gags its employees from speaking with Congress and violates the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA; 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(13)). The memorandum was made public today by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
In a letter to White House Counsel, POGO urges the White House to make Stephen Feinberg and Carl Icahn subject to federal ethics laws given their vast conflicts of interest.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel produces binding legal opinions on important issues, many of which are secret. POGO’s analysis shows that the Obama administration did not make OLC substantially more transparent. The Trump administration could chart a new path forward.
The decision to blow the whistle can be immensely patriotic: It could save lives, defend our constitutional rights against government overreach, and help preserve our democracy. But how do you blow the whistle and avoid retaliation?
For decades, POGO has worked with government insiders to expose wrongdoing that affects the public. Learn how to work with POGO to spark change while staying anonymous.
Each year, hundreds of uniformed members of the military send official complaints to Inspectors General (IGs) within the Department of Defense (DoD) saying that they are the targets of reprisal. Most do not have their claims of reprisal substantiated.
$644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.
My organization, the Project On Government Oversight, revealed in May that the Army Criminal Investigation Command sent your office a letter in 2006 recommending debarment or some other action against Airtech International, Inc., for the company’s substantiated and decade-long pattern of bribery, kickbacks and fraud.
My organization, the Project On Government Oversight, revealed in May that The Boeing Company, along with other aerospace manufacturers, was being supplied with bogus materials by a composite materials supplier called Airtech International, Inc.
Thank you for inviting me to testify today in support of the "Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007." Whistleblower protections need to be greatly improved if the Executive Branch—regardless of who is in the White House—is to be held accountable by the Legislative Branch, as our nation's founders intended.
I write this letter as a concerned citizen and in reference to the letter dated July 6, 2005 , titled “POGO letter to Congress raising concerns with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigative ability"1, signed by Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight (POGO).
The Department of Homeland Security and its Office of Inspector General moved beyond an impasse over the public issuance of a report on the Department’s bungled rollout of President Trump’s travel ban. But parts of the report are still veiled in secrecy.
The watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security found DHS violated court orders during the rollout of Trump’s travel ban. But the watchdog’s full findings are being blocked by DHS from public release.
The federal government’s efforts to fight the widespread deadly epidemic of opioid addiction were stymied by the campaign finance system and the revolving door.
A new report from a federal watchdog calls on the government to require hospitals to provide more detailed reporting on medical device problems to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Better reporting could help the government identify malfunctioning devices more quickly to save lives and help affected patients get more timely follow-up care, as well as to reduce both out-of-pocket costs to patients and Medicare spending.
As Congress contemplates funding billions of dollars in disaster aid, it should ensure the money is overseen adequately.
Members of Congress are supporting a Department of Interior executive who says management retaliated against him because he disclosed how climate change is putting Alaskan coastal communities at risk.
POGO’s new “Know Your Rights” tool is a starting point for federal whistleblowers who want to understand what the law protects and what it doesn’t.
A new law lets contractors hire their own auditors, despite history that shows it can come at the expense of independent oversight.
The administration has signaled it wants to aggressively go after the press and its sources. Congress should push back on attacks on the First Amendment.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memorandum to its employees on May 3, 2017, that gags them from speaking with Congress and thus violates the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. The memorandum was made public today by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who expressed concerns with the HHS memo.
President Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may be in legal trouble for failing to disclose information about his relationships with foreign governments.
President Trump is establishing another office at the VA focused on accountability and whistleblowers. Will it solve problems or create new ones?
Barclays has announced investigations by British regulators of its CEO’s efforts to identify a corporate whistleblower, in an apparent breach of bank policies and regulatory duties. In attempting to breach the anonymity of the whistleblower, the CEO jeopardized the whistleblower program by signaling that employees reporting misconduct cannot be assured protection against exposure and retaliation.
In a letter to White House Counsel, POGO urged the White House to make Stephen Feinberg and Carl Icahn subject to federal ethics laws given their vast conflicts of interest.
President Trump has trademark litigation before an executive branch panel—these judges ultimately work for Trump. Can they neutrally preside over a case involving him?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the Justice Department’s decision last year to phase out its use of private prisons, despite new reports raising concerns about their use.
Defense Secretary outlines plan to detect leaks of classified information and pursue leakers.
Are military accident investigation reports objective or are the conclusions of some reports being bent to blame pilots rather than flaws with expensive, highly controversial weapons systems?
At the end of July 2011, Robert MacLean learned the outcome of over a year of waiting. He was waiting on a second ruling from the relatively obscure and awkwardly named Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB, or the “Board”). The three-member Board in Washington, DC, is an administrative quasi-court that handles federal government whistleblower claims of retaliation, among other things. MacLean is a former federal air marshal who blew the whistle in July 2003 on his agency, the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA. After lengthy reviews by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and two by this Board, the first one in 2009, MacLean lost his claim that he was retaliated against.
Many pixels have been spilled on the recent grounding of the F-22 Raptor fleet, problems with the plane's oxygen systems, and the possible role of the oxygen system in the November 2010 crash of an F-22 in Alaska and death of its pilot. Here's a quick roundup of coverage of the latest problems facing this very expensive plane, followed by some questions that I think need to be answered.
On December 21, 2006, Robert Emmel signed a non-disclosure agreement with News America Marketing In-Store, LLC. This LLC is a part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation that does in-store marketing, such as "coupon and promotion dispensers, in-store video, at-shelf signage and floor and shopping cart advertising."
In December 2008, South Asian workers staged a protest on the outskirts of Baghdad. The reason: Up to 1,000 of them had been confined in a windowless warehouse without money or work for as long as three months.
The Air Force, Army, and Navy have identified fourteen weapons programs where they will employ two management techniques to prevent massive cost overruns, according to an April 22 Department of Defense (DoD) memo obtained by Inside Defense.com.
Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) prodded the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) to finish more incurred cost audits and decrease its backlog at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Contract Oversight hearing on Tuesday.
The head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous branch of the Energy Department responsible for the nuclear weapons complex, is stepping down at the end of the month due to lapses within the complex. Ambassador Linton Brooks took charge of NNSA in 2002.
Many 9/11 victim families have set their sights on the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) dubious Sensitive Security Information (SSI) secrecy marking. One of a number of so-called "sensitive but unclassified" (SBU) information designations, SSI has been abused by TSA to keep information from the public.