It is with great joy, appreciation, and celebration that we at the Government Accountability Project honor Mary Brumder. For fifteen years she committed herself to the task of achieving greater corporate and government accountability through protecting whistleblowers, investigating and verifying their concerns, and developing effective reform strategies for social change related to whistleblower rights and the public concerns that they expose.
She served – and continues to serve – the Government Accountability Project through a series of unique and varying capacities. She began as a generous major donor, advising her peers at the Threshold Foundation and many others to give as well.
During the next phase of involvement, Mary began advising our nuclear program as well, offering helpful and valuable advice about how we could best achieve our goals and bring broader public support for those efforts. Her earlier legal practice and active engagement with the legendary Midwest Academy guided her as she encouraged us to translate her advice and vision into effective action.
Next Mary Brumder joined the Government Accountability Project Board, adding oversight responsibilities to her plate. Soon our Board members recognized her talent: she served on the Executive Committee, the Management Committee and as Chair. She guided us safely through the types of financial and organizational struggles that might well have upended this Project despite its achievements and zealous commitment to democracy, social justice, and public accountability for all major institutions.
Finally, Mary became the Government Accountability Project’s third Executive Director. She expanded her leadership to include direct and fierce engagement in all of our activities. She shares significant credit for what we were able to achieve during her Board and directorship tenure. To name but a tiny handful of these achievements, Mary greatly helped us to do the following:
- Challenge nuclear weapons cleanups, operations, and corruption at Hanford, Rocky Flats, Idaho National Labs (where she helped kill a planned incinerator), and Los Alamos;
- Force the resignation of the “architect of the Iraq War”—Paul Wolfowitz—as the president of the World Bank;
- Halt the manufacture and the $2 billion annual sales of the painkiller drug Vioxx which had killed tens of thousands of users; and
- Expose the crude and dishonest efforts of the Bush Administration to rewrite the climate science reports compiled from 13 federal agencies responsible for $2 billion worth of annual research to make it seem that the actuality of climate change was questionable and the human activity contributing to it was less certain.
These are merely a small fraction of the hundreds upon hundreds of cases that we investigated, litigated and pursued as national campaigns during Mary’s tenure.
She has now written her final and lasting official chapter for us in, no doubt, quiet contemplation. She provided a $25,000 bequest to the Government Accountability Project. Although she typically left it to our judgment how we would spend that generous gift. Remembering her wise advice over the years about how to sustain the Government Accountability Project, we have decided to establish a legacy fund that will extend this and other legacy gifts far into the future.
She would not have wanted us to create an endowment and put away her funds into a perpetual institution. She was too much of an activist and would want her legacy to confront and last through these current years of national turmoil and threat. Instead we will place her funds into a legacy fund and will convert 10% of those funds into organizational operations each year for an estimated 13 to 14 years – equaling the time of her most active engagement with us. It seems appropriate to us who worked alongside of Mary—as well as those who only know of her legendary engagement – to do this.
Mary’s advice, financial support and leadership have helped us to move mountains, overcome a horde of oppositional roadblocks, and respond to a critical societal need to come to the defense of courageous truth-tellers who otherwise would have drown in the waves that they have created. But she taught us more and brought us more than that. She added humor to the struggles and campaigns, reminding us that there is also a lightness of being that helps to sustain us for the long haul. She listened to colleagues before deciding important matters.
As a lawyer, she understood the professional responsibilities to serve both the public interest and the private interest of clients. She did not shy from the potential personal and organizational liability that often comes our way as collateral threats for representing pariahs in a minefield of extreme and hostile bureaucratic and corporate reaction to whistleblowing. Yet, she never lost her cool and helped us fellow travelers to retain ours as well.
With heartfelt gratitude, we extend our love and appreciation to Mary’s family for sharing such a wonderful and beautiful person. She will remain with us and will live through us way into the future— in fact, for all time.
Louis Clark President & CEO Government Accountability Project
A memorial service was held for Mary in Seattle, Washington at the Arboretum’s Graham Visitor Center on July 15th.