Event Highlights Need for Senate Passage of Bill

(Washington, D.C.) – On Monday, May 14, the Government Accountability Project (GAP), 45 national public interest groups, and hundreds of whistleblowers from across the country will kick off Washington Whistleblower Week, running from May 14-18

Attached to this release, please find a short fact sheet detailing a partial list of prominent whistleblowers who will be participating in the week’s events, including Coleen Rowley, Jeffrey Wigand, Rick Piltz, Susan Wood, and others.

The week’s events are designed to highlight contributions whistleblowers have made in society and to promote protections for whistleblowers who risk their careers to challenge abuses of the public trust. Supporting organizations view Washington Whistleblower Week as an opportunity to build on the momentum created by a historic vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, which on March 14 passed H.R. 985, the “Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007.” The 331-94 vote is strong enough to override a potential White House veto, which was threatened on the day prior to the vote.

To launch the week’s activities on Monday, GAP, ACLU, National Whistleblower Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, Taxpayers Against Fraud, Whistleblowers USA, and other groups are hosting, sponsoring and/or participating in a series of panels beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the Russell Senate office building, Room 325. The panels are designed to highlight congressional efforts to enhance whistleblower protections and other oversight initiatives.

Please Note: In addition to Monday’s events, we would like to alert you to an Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Hearing on “Private Sector Whistleblowers: Are There Sufficient Legal Protections?” scheduled for Tuesday, May 15 at 2:00 p.m. in room 2175 Rayburn H.O.B. Tom Devine, GAP Legal Director, will be among the witnesses detailing a lack of protections for private sector whistleblowers.

The No Fear Coalition of civil rights activists and whistleblowers is also sponsoring a symposium on Tuesday, May 15th, in Rayburn 2128, from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

The agenda for Monday is as follows:

10:30am – 11:30am: Whistleblower Protection Legislation – The Need for Reform
Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room, SR 325

A series of court rulings since 1994 has made it impossible for whistleblowers to protect themselves when they speak out to protect the public. Last Congress, the Senate unanimously approved legislation that would overturn these hostile decisions and overhaul the broken WPA. This Congress, on March 14, 2007, the House passed H.R. 985, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007. This panel will discuss the need for these reforms and the prospects of enacting them during this Congress.

Facilitator: Tom Devine, GAP Legal Director
Keynote:   Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen
Panelists:  Staff, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on                                       Oversight of the Federal Workforce
Staff, Office of Representative Todd Platts
Bogdan Dzakovic, Former FAA Red Team leader, aviation security whistleblower
Darlene Fitzgerald, U.S. Customs whistleblower

11:30am – 12:30pm: Congressional Oversight of the FBI
Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room, SR 325

Whistleblowers have long played an important role in Congressional oversight of the FBI. This is increasingly the case after September 11, with frequent breakdowns in communication threatening U.S. national and homeland security. This panel will consider the efforts made by Former Special Agents Rowley and German to break through the institutional walls at the Bureau, and the changes that are still necessary to confront bureaucratic threats to national security.

Facilitator: Steve Kohn, President, National Whistleblower Center
Keynote:   Senator Charles Grassley
Panelists:  Coleen Rowley, TIME Person of the Year, former FBI Special Agent
Michael German, ACLU, Former FBI Special Agent

12:30pm – 2:00pm: Luncheon Panel on Scientific Integrity
Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room, SR 325

Thousands of scientists, including numerous Nobel laureates and senior scientists, who have advised Republican and Democratic presidents dating back fifty years, have signed a statement condemning political interference in science and calling for reforms that restore scientific integrity to federal policy making. This panel will consider the ways corporate, ideological, and political interests have undermined science, and the role of individuals of conscience in standing up for scientific integrity.

Facilitator: Mark Cohen, GAP Food and Drug Safety Director
Panelists: Jeffrey Wigand, Tobacco Industry whistleblower, subject of the movie “The Insider”
Susan Wood, former Director, FDA Office of Women’s Health
Rick Piltz, former Senior Associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program
Francesca Grifo, Director, Scientific Integrity Program, Union of Concerned

2:00pm – 3:00pm: False Claims Act: Successes & Challenges Ahead
Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 342

Since the False Claims Act (FCA) was amended nearly twenty years ago, whistleblowers have played a pivotal role in returning nearly $20 billion in stolen funds to the U.S. Treasury. The remarkable success of the Act is largely because of the unique public-private partnership established under the Act, which not only encourages whistleblowers to report misconduct, but actually empowers them to investigate and prosecute “fraudfeasors” on behalf of the federal government. States have also taken notice of this success and over thirty of them have either passed their own FCA or are currently considering similar legislation. This panel will highlight the success of state and federal FCAs and will provide a glimpse behind the public-private mechanism driving this success.

Facilitator: Joseph E.B. White, Legal Education Director, Taxpayers Against Fraud
Education Fund
Panelists: Stephen D. Altman, Stephen D. Altman, PLLC, Washington D.C., former
Assistant Director of DOJ Commercial Litigation Branch
Janet Chandler, Ph.D., whistleblower in landmark U.S. Supreme Court
Robert L. Vogel, Vogel & Slade, LLP, Washington, D.C., False Claims Act Qui
Tam Attorney

3:00pm – 4:00pm: Oversight of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel
Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 342

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) recently announced it is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into possible improper political activity by members of the White House, including Karl Rove. The investigation is being initiated at the same time that a White House entity, called the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, is completing its own investigation of Special Counsel Scott Bloch. This panel will consider the merits of both investigations and discuss what government employees should expect when they turn to OSC after being retaliated against for blowing the whistle.

Facilitator: Adam Miles, GAP Legislative Representative
Panelists: Debbie Katz, Katz, Marshal and Banks
Natresha Dawson, Office of Special Counsel (OSC) whistleblower
Gabe Bruno, Former FAA Manager
Beth Daley, Director of Investigations, Project on Government Oversight
Representative from OSC (invited)

5:00pm – 6:00pm: Reception and Book-Signing
The Warehouse Theater
1017 7th Street NW (across from the Convention Center)

Please join us for a reception honoring the achievements of whistleblowers, courtesy of the Debbie Kringle Memorial Fund. Appetizers and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Cocktails may be purchased from the bar. Linda Lewis, Director of Whistleblowers USA, will be hosting a book-signing during this reception.

6:00pm – 9:00pm: Screening of The Insider featuring Jeffrey Wigand
The Warehouse Theater
1017 7th Street NW (across from the Convention Center)

In addition to GAP, sponsoring organizations of Washington Whistleblower Week
include: the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the National Whistleblower Center, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers Against Fraud, the Liberty Coalition, OMB Watch, People for the American Way, National Employment Lawyers Association, Whistleblowers USA, Common Cause, U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation, and many others.

On Wednesday, May 16, the National Whistleblower Center will be hosting a series of practical workshops for whistleblowers and continuing legal education programs for whistleblower and employment attorneys. For more information, go to www.whistleblowers.org.

Also on Wednesday, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Whistleblower Coalition will host sessions on reprisal against VA whistleblowers. For more information, visit their website.