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Celebrating a New Day for Whistleblowers

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Last week, the Project On Government Oversight, partners in the Make It Safe Coalition, and the Fund for Constitutional Government hosted a celebration of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) finally becoming law. It is a wonderful victory for truth-tellers and taxpayers alike. President Obama signed this landmark bill into law on December 3, marking the finale in a campaign to restore and strengthen protections for federal whistleblowers that has lasted over a decade.

The celebration was well attended by whistleblowers, advocates from a number of organizations, and their champions in government. Special remarks were made by cosponsors of the legislation Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who showed extraordinary bipartisan leadership, as well as Deputy Counsel to President Obama, Leslie Kiernan, Ambassador and former White House Ethics Czar Norm Eisen, Special Counsel Susan Lerner, and whistleblower Jack Spadaro (video will be posted soon!). Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Representative Todd Platts (R-Pa.), two longtime champions for whistleblowers and authors of the WPEA who are retiring this year, received awards for “Lifetime Public Service” from the Make It Safe Coalition.

“This recognition is wonderful to receive,” Representative Platts said during his remarks, “but it’s really for everybody here. I mean this certainly has been a team effort.” He went on to say:

This bill is just a wonderful example—here’s how I’d like to think we can do it more often as a body: bipartisan, bicameral, executive, legislative branch—not just government, but our partners outside of government—all working together for, bottom line, just good results for the American people. I’m honored to have played a small role in that process and really all of you have helped give me a wonderful send-off gift in leaving the House after 12 years.

Senator Akaka also expressed his thoughts on this momentous occasion, stating:

I’m so glad that after twelve years, we’ve come to the point where we were able to enact that bill and make it a bipartisan bill, so it went all the way through and the President signed it. For me, and for all of us, we finally have a bill that will help protect those who have something to say about what’s happening in our government. And when I think of the Project On Government Oversight as you are, it’s a valuable organization. And so we’ve added this bill which helps protect those who have been abused and who are working against fraud and waste…. What it does really is to make our government more efficient, and more effective as well.

Senator Akaka continued by expressing his gratitude to everyone who worked on this legislative effort saying, “I know in the twelve years, if it were not for your help, this bill would not have passed. So I want to thank you for all the work each of you have done to bring that bill about and help move it as we have and to finally pass it.”

There also were awards to two advocates who toiled in the trenches to pass the legislation: Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project and POGO’s own Angela Canterbury. Canterbury said, “What a surprise! I had no idea my colleagues had this planned. It is a very special honor, and I am humbled by the recognition. So many have worked for this reform for many years. It is a shared victory and a shared honor.”

There were champagne toasts, but the speakers made clear that there is more work to be done to ensure the best protections for federal whistleblowers and taxpayers.

Here are some of the highlights of the evening in pictures:

Rep Todd Platts receiving the Make it Safe Coalition Award

Representative Todd Platts receiving the Make it Safe Coalition Award from Marcel Reid, director of the Pacifica Foundation.

Group at WPEA Event

Representatives Todd Platts and Chris Van Hollen with POGO Director of Public Policy Angela Canterbury, Union of Concerned Scientists Washington Representative Celia Wexler, Representative Van Hollen’s Chief Counsel Karen Robb, and Government Accountability Project Legal Director Tom Devine.

POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian thanking Representative Chris Van Hollen

POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian thanking Representative Chris Van Hollen for his leadership in protecting federal workers who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse.

Deputy Counsel to the President Leslie Kiernan (center) speaking on behalf of President Obama

Deputy Counsel to the President Leslie Kiernan (center) speaking on behalf of President Obama, lauds the reform, affirms the President’s support, and thanks the advocates.

 

Ambassador Norm Eisen making a special toast

Ambassador Norm Eisen making a special toast to whistleblowers with the Make It Safe Coalition Steering Committee.

Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner

Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner explaining how much this reform will help whistleblowers.

Whistleblower Jack Spadaro sharing his story.

Whistleblower Jack Spadaro sharing his story.

Representative Darrell Issa making a speec

Representative Darrell Issa making a speech, emphasizing the work that remains to be done to protect national security and intelligence community whistleblowers and improve Freedom of Information Act administration.

Celia Wexler surprising Angela Canterbury with and award

Celia Wexler surprising Angela Canterbury with the Make It Safe Coalition award of appreciation for her commitment and dedication to the cause of whistleblowers.

 

Tom Devine receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award

Tom Devine receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from Angela Canterbury for his indefatigable work on behalf of whistleblowers for over three decades.

Tom Devine presenting award to Sen. Daniel Akaka

Tom Devine presenting longtime whistleblower champion Senator Daniel Akaka with a “Lifetime Public Service” award.

Sen. Daniel Akaka

Original sponsor of the bill since it was introduced 13 years ago, Senator Daniel Akaka making warm remarks. This legislation will serve as a lasting legacy for the retiring Senator.

Sen. Daniel Akaka receiving award

Senator Daniel Akaka receiving the Lifetime Public Service Award.

It was a grand evening to celebrate an important, hard-won victory. The new law will make our government more transparent and accountable by better protecting those brave individuals who come forward to report waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality. Follow the link to read a summary of the reforms included in the WPEA.

Check out the rest of the photos from the celebration here.

By: Suzanne Dershowitz
Public Policy Fellow, POGO

suzanne dershowitz At the time of publication Suzie Dershowitz was a public policy fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Whistleblower Protections

Authors: Suzanne Dershowitz

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