Whistleblower Community Pays Tribute to Congressman Elijah Cummings
The passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) marks a tremendous loss for the whistleblower community. The Make It Safe Coalition (MISC), a nonpartisan network of more than 75 organizations and individual whistleblowers dedicated to strengthening protections for whistleblowers in the private and public sector, commemorates Congressman Cummings for his tireless commitment to protect our most courageous civil servants.
Throughout the Congressman’s career in the House of Representatives, he conducted himself with integrity and grace, building alliances across the aisle to advance good government reforms. He honored the nonpartisan nature of whistleblowing and worked in close partnership with his Republican colleagues to strengthen protections for our nation’s truth-tellers. As co-chair of the House Whistleblower Protection Caucus, he partnered with co-chair Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and other Caucus members to foster a more positive culture around whistleblowing.
In the Congressman’s capacity as Ranking Member and then Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, he set Congress’ gold-standard for safely working with whistleblowers to conduct its oversight responsibilities. Indeed, he understood that whistleblowers come forward at great personal risk, and Congress must do everything in its power to protect its most valuable sources against government waste, fraud, abuse and other misconduct. As Louis Clark, executive director and CEO of Government Accountability Project observed,
“Today we mourn the loss of a leader who was able to find common ground with every other Member of Congress as they all joined unanimously in support of enhanced protections for both federal employees and contractors. After that stunning success, he then returned to the unique role that Congress and his Committee shared to see that the new whistleblower protection reforms actually worked as well in their implementation as they looked on paper. It is up to all of us who care about an accountable, open and honest government to allow his spirit to move us to continue the work that he so vigorously led.”
In 2012, as Ranking Member of the House Oversight Reform Committee, he led the House of Representative’s unanimous support for the landmark Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act – the primary whistleblower law for federal employees outside of the intelligence community. Even after that victory, he continued to pave the way for stronger reforms.
For the 2019 National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, Congressman Cummings provided the following statement to honor whistleblowers and remind Congress that there is more work to be done:
“On this day, I’d like to on a very special group of individuals within the federal community — the men and women who risk everything to disclose waste fraud and abuse in the federal government. Without legal protections, whistleblowers would suffer retaliation and without these courageous individuals, Congress would not be able to fulfill its constitutional duty to serve as a check and balance on the executive branch, the very foundation of our democracy… Although Congress has made significant progress in protecting the brave souls who shine a light on corruption in the federal government, we cannot rest on our laurels. That’s why I’m working on introducing legislation in this Congress that would further strengthen protections for whistleblowers and improve enforcement of existing law to prevent and address retaliation.”
Now it is our turn to honor the Congressman. We will do this, in part, by continuing his life’s work to strengthen protections for federal whistleblowers. He will be deeply missed, but his legacy will continue to be felt by the countless federal employees who can more safety speak truth to power.