Q: Why does Congress recognize National Whistleblower Appreciation Day on July 30?
A: It’s an appropriate coincidence National Whistleblower Appreciation Day occurs in the same month as America’s Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, the nation’s Founders declared freedom from tyranny and the sovereign right of the American people to pursue life, liberty and self-government. Just two years later, the Continental Congress passed historic legislation honoring the bravery and courage of the new nation’s first whistleblowers. Sailors aboard the warship Warren came to Congress to report wrongdoing by their commanding officer. The 18th century resolution declared it the duty of every citizen “to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds, or misdemeanors.” The words ring as true today in the 21st century as they did in 1778. As founder of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, I am committed to carrying forward the proclamation adopted by the nation’s Founders.
My advocacy for truth tellers began four decades ago when I launched what has become a decades-long crusade to root out waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government. My 1986 updates to the False Claims Act empower private citizens to come forward and sue corrupt contractors on behalf of the taxpayer. The U.S. Justice Department says my amendments are the federal government’s #1 anti-fraud tool in its arsenal, recouping nearly $60 billion to the Federal Treasury and averting untold billions from waste, fraud and abuse. Likewise, whistleblower programs at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service have recovered billions more dollars, giving these federal agencies effective tools to root out corruption that otherwise would go undetected. In my ongoing efforts to support and encourage those who risk their reputations and put their livelihoods on the line to report misconduct, I’m honored to champion and strengthen protections for whistleblowers. From food, drug and aviation safety, to tax dollars lost to wasteful spending in defense, health care, veterans or farm programs, Congress would be unable to find and root out wrongdoing across the sprawling federal bureaucracy without brave patriots who come forward to tell the truth. Our system of self-government is as strong as an engaged and informed citizenry. Americans have a civic duty to use their voice to blow the whistle on corruption that jeopardizes the integrity of financial systems, puts public safety at risk and rips off the taxpaying public.
Q: What drives your commitment to strengthen whistleblower protections?
A: One of the fundamental responsibilities of every federal lawmaker is constitutional oversight. As a prolific and outspoken watchdog against waste, I devote considerable time and resources to focus on holding government accountable to the people. Just since the start of the 116th Congress, I’ve sent more than 100 oversight letters to answer concerns about migrant abuse, defense contracting, foreign threats to taxpayer-funded research, improper Medicaid payments, drug pricing, government surveillance of U.S. citizens, whistleblower policies and more. Transparency brings accountability. However, as hard as I work to keep track of tax dollars coming in and going out of the Federal Treasury and to hold federal agencies accountable to faithfully execute the laws of the United States, it would be impossible for members of Congress to identify and uncover wrongdoing from every nook and cranny of the federal government without the eyes and ears of patriotic whistleblowers. That’s why I work to make sure whistleblower protection and incentive programs work as intended. Shooting the messenger is as old as the republic. Reprisals and retributions are common tactics used in the public and private sectors to intimidate and silence whistleblowers from reporting the truth. As long as I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will continue working to empower whistleblowers and strengthen legal protections that give them a platform to tell the truth and due process for unfair retaliation by federal agencies.
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Senate president pro tempore of the 116th Congress, is founder of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus and leads the annual effort to mark July 30 as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.