Whistleblower Project Results

Friday, April 01, 2011

Brooke Gladstone, host and managing editor of WNYC’s On the Media, shares the outcome of OTM's Blow the Whistle project that used "the crowd" to figure out which U.S. Senator blocked the Whistleblower Protection Act.

From It's A Free Country:

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Brooke Gladstone, host and managing editor of WNYC’s On the Media, shares the outcome of OTM's Blow the Whistle project that used "the crowd" to figure out which U.S. Senator blocked the Whistleblower Protection Act.

The Whistle Blower Enhancement Act was killed in Congress last December at the last minute when a mystery senator placed an anonymous hold on the bill, preventing a final vote. The bill, which was designed to protect government workers from being punished for exposing waste, fraud or corruption within government, had popular support and the votes to pass, but the anonymous hold prevented it ever reaching the floor for a vote. 

WNYC's On the Media had asked listeners to join them and the Government Accountability Project to figure out which senator killed the bill. Hundreds of people participated by calling their state senators and asking if they were the one who placed the secret hold. Through this crowd-sourcing, they were able to narrow the search down to just three senators.

There were three senators who still refused to comment but we’ve eliminated one of them anyway. The three senators are James Risch of Idaho, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. The three of them have steadfastly refused to comment. We’ve eliminated Risch for a couple of reasons… He basically is a new-style Republican who opposes telling us because he believes in the secret hold. He thinks it protects senators against ‘the tyranny of the majority.’

The Tyranny of the Majority

Risch said in a quote that the secret hold is an “important part of the process which protects the rights of each senator, especially those in the minority. It forces thoughtful consideration and debate while ensuring members work together.” Gladstone finds that unlikely in the case of a solo secret hold.

In the case of the Whistle Blower Protection Enhancement Act, this had unanimously passed both houses. Any consideration that was going to be done, would have been done… It makes no sense.

Gladstone is “absolutely not” surprised by the finding that it was Senators Kyl and Sessions. 

Both Kyl and Sessions have put holds on similar legislation in the past, and, of course, the holds did eventually come to light, but long after it made any difference.

Whoever placed the hold would seem to have feel that a bill protecting workers who report government waste is either bad for America, or bad for some other interest that they are protecting. Gladstone thinks the hold was probably placed by both Sessions and Kyl.

They’ve [both] opposed it in the past and the thing is, why don’t they oppose it in public? Because this is essentially an anti-money-wasting bill, even more than illegal activities, it’s things like secret deals with contractors, poorly designed weapons that are costing too much, that kind of thing.

A Favor for the House Republicans

What we found out, was the hold was placed because of a secret request from the Republican House leadership.

The House, which doesn’t have a secret hold process had, in fact, unanimously passed the bill twice — once as originally written, and later a softer version, with some of the more protective language removed. Gladstone said the reason why the Republican leadership would then request the Senate to put a secret hold on was beyond her comprehension.

Unless there are certain construction deals related to government in certain states where the contracts are benefiting local business… to be honest with you, I’ve gone way beyond my level of knowledge now.

Journalism at its Best

The Blow the Whistle project has had enormous effect. Several reporters wrote editorials about the campaign, and several newspapers across the country came on board as well. 

The Government Accountability Project says… that [they] have heard that Republicans who used the secret hold before will never ever use it again because of the light that we have shined on it… [They] feel very strongly that when they reintroduce [the bill again] there will be no secret hold to kill it, and anybody who wants to is going to have to face the public and explain why.

Gladstone said On the Media has senators from every other state on the record stating that they did not place the hold, so she feels very confident in their results. On the Media will be doing a wrap up of the project on their show this Saturday. And as for the future of whistle blower protection, Gladstone said it may have lost the battle but won the war.

This bill is dead. It died in the last legislative session. They have to bring it up again. But they’re bringing up the stronger one this time, rather than the one that was weakened.


Brooke Gladstone

Comments [15]

Steve Minkon

I was driving when I heard your segment on the secret hold and said out loud Kyl before you agreed.

Because he is a scoundrel.

Kyl orchestrated the campaign to milk $85 billions for nuclear weapons modernization at a time Republicans and Democratic are seeking ways to cut the budget.

Kyl is deeply tied to the nuclear weapons boondoggle and can look forward to a golden handshake from the bomb makers when he retires at the end of this term

He knew there is way too many misdeeds tied to our nuclear weapons construction, and modernization program. He and his friends want this matter to remain far from public awareness.
He certainly wants no one to connect his post Senate prospects to what he has done for the bomb makers bottom line .
That my opinion

Apr. 04 2011 03:21 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Oh, I see. When it's something they want to pass, it's "the will of the American people." When it's something they don't, it's "the tyranny of the majority"!

Apr. 01 2011 11:29 AM

One word: Halliburton.
One comment on Senator Risch's belief that the secret hold defends senators from the tyranny of the majority. When a majority passes laws and makes policies, it's called democracy. When a single person determines policy, it is called tyranny.

Apr. 01 2011 11:03 AM

crowd source government waste!

Apr. 01 2011 11:01 AM
Geo from downtown

I'll tell you why. I work for a very large public agency and over the past decade we went from a very productive organization to a very underfunded poorly staffed organixation. Why? because a good chunk of ourt money went to private contractors. Private contractors that have political connections. Blocking whistleblower protection would discourage people like me from revealing this reality. republicans cry less govt and anti union but they take govt money and give it to their friends through govt.

Apr. 01 2011 10:58 AM

Well done OTM!!! Even though it was 1 or 2 people doing this, that is all it takes and that's the point. Probably there were plenty of Republicans (and Dems) who wanted this killed because we all know they have plenty to hide, but if it only takes 1 person to do the dirty, that is enough.

Apr. 01 2011 10:58 AM
Bobby G from East Village

This hypocritical, obstructionist, maneuver is for one reason only, protect special interests at the expense of the U.S. treasury.

Apr. 01 2011 10:58 AM
Yosif from Manhattan

I'll just go ahead and say it. They're corrupt!

Apr. 01 2011 10:58 AM

I'd suspect that someone is protecting a lobbyist or voting for a lobbyist that will suffer because of this law.

Apr. 01 2011 10:58 AM
Phil Henshaw

Isn't most of the manipulation of political actions is for the same purpose, isn't it, what some people call "coalition building" and others call "arm twisting" ? Why isn't it obvious the secret hold was for "deal making" to get some favor.

Apr. 01 2011 10:57 AM
Nick from UWS

Let's WHY would politicians want to block the protection of whistleblowers?.....hmmm....hmmmm.......hmmmm....

Why are you guys asking such a stupid question?

Apr. 01 2011 10:57 AM
Jennifer from Central CT

Could this be a contributing reason to why there is an attempt to defund NPR?

Apr. 01 2011 10:56 AM
art525 from park slope

Hey Brooke, I'm the guy who lives on your street who stopped you on the corner to tell you I'm a fan. Well Brooke hearing this just reinforces that I am a big fan. A big big fan. Thanks for all you do. You're great.

Apr. 01 2011 10:56 AM
Jeff Pappas from Ct.

Very Kafka like , except this is happening in America, time to go back to the world of fiction.
This Republican needs his health care removed in a very non - secret way

Apr. 01 2011 10:55 AM

Hey Brooke! Read the comments re: the Hayworth interview. You'll find a little bit of ammunation for the argument that NPR is not biased against the right.

Apr. 01 2011 10:53 AM

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