Whether it is in the government or private sector, whistleblowers play an invaluable role to keep organizations accountable. Unfortunately, these brave and patriotic citizens often face ridicule and retaliation for their disclosures. … they should be commended, not condemned, for their work to keep their organization honest.–Senator Chuck Grassley
The United States Senate gained a new interest group earlier this year. As reported, the new Whistleblower Protection Caucus has the dual purpose to foster bipartisan discussion on legislative issues affecting the treatment of whistleblowers and to serve as a clearinghouse for current information on whistleblower developments of interest in the Senate. It will also coordinate training and consultation for any Senate office in need of assistance in responding to whistleblower disclosures or retaliation allegations. (Office of Senator Grassley, 2015).
Senate caucuses are informal, often bipartisan, groups of senators who share an interest in a specific issue. These groups do not have official recognition as Senate interest groups, and they do not receive Senate funding, but they provide like-minded members an informal opportunity to discuss issues with legislative and policy implications.
The Whistleblower Protection Caucus was founded Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA). He is joined by caucus Vice-Chairman is Ron Wyden (D-OR) and members Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Boozman (R-AR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Kirk, (R-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
Senator Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has a long-standing interest in the rights of whistleblowers. He announced his plans to create the caucus last year on the 25th anniversary of the Whistleblower Protection Act, which became law from bills he co-authored in 1987 and 1989. In his announcement, made during a speech on the Senate floor to commemorate the anniversary, he said,
Whistleblower protections are only worth anything if they’re enforced. Just because we’ve passed good laws does not mean we can stop paying attention to the issue. There must be vigilant oversight by Congress. The best protection for a whistleblower is a culture of understanding and respecting the right to blow the whistle. I hope this whistleblower caucus will send the message that Congress expects that kind of culture. I call on my colleagues to help me make sure that whistleblowers continue to receive the kind of protection they need and deserve.
The statement could apply just as well to private-sector organizations as to Congress, and it could apply to all aspects of an ethics program, not just to provisions that prohibit retaliation against employees who report misconduct.
Whether or not the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus will directly influence future legislation remains to be seen, but its existence does appear to indicate that whistleblower protection is an important issue for a small but possibly key group of senators.
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Grassley, Chuck. “The 25th Anniversary of the Whistleblower Protection Act,” Senate floor speech (YouTube video), April 10, 2014.
Office of Senator Chuck Grassley. “Grassley Leads Bipartisan Group of Senators in Launching Whistleblower Protection Caucus,” news release, February 26, 2015.
Office of Senator Chuck Grassley. “Boozman, Carper Join Whistleblower Protection Caucus,” news release, April 14, 2015.