Sen. Charles Grassley plans new whistleblower-protection caucus


Cliff Owen/AP – Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on Capitol Hill in April.
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A co-author of the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act plans to create a new Senate caucus dedicated to upholding the federal-workforce legislation, which became law 25 years ago to the day.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) will announce his intentions on the Senate floor on Thursday and spend the next six months encouraging colleagues to join the caucus, with a goal of establishing the group by the start of the next session of Congress, according to an announcement from his office.

“Whistleblowers are often treated like skunks at a picnic,” the lawmaker said. “It takes guts to put your career on the line to expose waste and fraud, and whistleblowers need senators who will listen and advocate for them.”

Why should it take six months to create a caucus? Because the process is more difficult that it might sound. It involves paperwork, enlisting members and putting together an agenda.

Grassley has been active on whistleblower-protection issues throughout much of his career. In 1986, he authored amendments to the False Claims Act that gave private citizens more power to report fraudulent activity by government contractors and to sue in the name of the government. He also sponsored a bill in 2006 that overhauled the IRS whistleblower program to focus more on fighting major tax fraud.

More recently, the Republican issued a letter to President Obama in September calling on the White House to prohibit federal agencies from designating jobs as “non-critical sensitive” as a way to silence whistleblowers.

A federal court in August said positions involving national security concerns can be exempt from due process with the Merit Systems Protection Board, which hears appeals of adverse personnel decisions such as demotions and firings.

MORE: Grassley calls on Obama to ensure protections for federal whistleblowers

Critics of the court decision have said it allows agencies to punish whistleblowers by designating their positions as “non-critical sensitive” and then taking personnel actions that could not be appealed.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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