The Conclusion of the Blow the Whistle Project

Friday, April 01, 2011


In January we launched our Blow the Whistle project - our attempt to identify the Senator behind a secret hold that killed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. We worked with the Government Accountability Project and listeners, many of whom called their senators to ask: Was it you? This week marks the end of our investigation. GAP's Tom Devine talks about the project's impact in Washington and listener Susan Schibler describes trying to get her senator to go on the record about the secret hold.

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Comments [16]


No, I still don't see a difference as the end result is the same.

Apr. 08 2011 07:32 PM
Dion Watson from southside

Love the show and I particularly enjoy the bumper music that plays at the opening of the show and plays as you are going to the news. Whose music is that?


Apr. 08 2011 10:25 AM
Scott Vandermyde from Zürich

No one has addressed the Senators who retired (Jim Bunning, anyone?).

Apr. 05 2011 04:11 AM
Alex Goldman from United States

As for the National Whistleblower Center's criticisms of the bill, please see this comment from the Blow the Whistle site, written by the Government Accountability Project's Shanna Devine:

While this legislation, like all bills, is imperfect, the whistleblower and transparency community’s overwhelming consensus, with the exception of a few, is that this bill is a huge milestone forward (the strongest rights to make it this far for federal whistleblowers).

The Make It Safe Coalition's steering committee, which consists of the American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Government Employees, GAP, National Treasury Employees Union, Project On Government Oversight, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote a point by point rebuttal memo to concerns raised by one organization,

Apr. 04 2011 02:03 PM
Alex Goldman from United States

Thank you for your comments, Tommy. Indeed, the secret hold still exists. The reform that was passed on January 27th reduced the length of a hold from six days to two days. However, if you read the fine print you will see that there is nothing in the resolution prohibiting "tag teaming" a bill or nomination (passing the hold back and forth between Senators within the allotted time limit to lengthen the hold beyond the 48 hour limit.) Additionally, since the rules still allow for a secret hold to be placed on a bill for 48 hours, a Senator could still place the same kind of hold that killed the WPEA without any repercussions.

You can find the language of the resolution here:

Alex Goldman
Producer, On the Media.

Apr. 04 2011 02:01 PM
Mutt Moore from The Great Blogosphere

@arnold, 3:
"I don't see much difference between this tactic and denying the possibility of a quorum, both are antidemocratic."
Well, let me ask you: do you know the names of the WI senators who left the state to prevent the forum's taking hold? If not, you certainly can get that info. And their constituents can use it to vote for or against them in the next election, as they see fit. You can contribute to their opponents.
That's the difference. It's significant, in my opinion.

Apr. 04 2011 01:56 PM
William Beeman from Minneapolis, MN

Congratulations on this campaign. It is truly dreadful that the American public must fight so hard for transparency in government. Your story didn't tell us about the willingness of senators Kyl and Sessions to come forward and comment on their actions. I hope cleansing daylight on this issue will put them on notice next time--but given their record I believe they are beyond shame.

Apr. 04 2011 10:45 AM
William Beeman from Minneapolis, MN

Congratulations on this campaign. It is only disheartening to see the lengths we must go to obtain transparency in government. Senators Kyl and Sessions need the cleansing of daylight to rout what appears to be a shameful act on their part. However, knowing their record on many anti-progressive measures, I truly believe they are beyond shame. Your story does not tell us whether these two Senators were willing to go on record, however. Did you lack constituents in this story who were willing to confront them?

Apr. 04 2011 10:42 AM
Mutt Moore from The Great Blogosphere

Daniel Coggins: I'm sure you've downloaded it by now. Note that the podcast is typically not available until sometime after 5 PM Eastern Time. Your question was posted at 4:07 PM Eastern Daylight Time. So you were approximately an hour early.

Tommy McEldowney: The anonymous hold that OTM's been investigating was placed in December, at the end of the last Congressional session. So rules that were passed on 1/27/11 didn't prevent that particular anonymous hold.
Also, as OTM reported, there's a huge loophole in the new rules: a hold is only reported if it's held for 48 hours or more. Thus, if legislation comes up in the last two days of the congressional session (as I believe the final version of the Whistleblower Bill did), then any hold on it would effectively be anonymous.

Apr. 04 2011 07:23 AM
Tommy McEldowney from San Francisco

And one more thing.

The National Whistleblowers Center called the legislation a “bad deal” because under it [S 372], “most federal employees who are retaliated against for blowing the whistle will continue to lose their cases.” According to the NWC, “Many of its positive features are thwarted by carefully drafted "fine print" that will negate, in practice, the ability of employees who report waste, fraud and abuse to obtain protection.”


Apr. 03 2011 03:03 PM
Tommy McEldowney from San Francisco

How can the case you make be accurate? The bill that passed each house of congress had its detractors but there are no more "secret holds."

WNYC also reported that On The Media said, “This bill had already been passed by the House and the Senate, but in the final vote on the reconciled bill, it died and no one had to take responsibility.” But where is the "anonymous hold?"

On January 27, 2011, as ProPublica reported, “the Senate ended the ‘secret holds’ that lawmakers used to anonymously hold up bills and nominees without having to explain their objections.” That does not prevent Senators from putting a hold on legislation. “But senators who do so will have their name published in the Congressional Record.” The vote was 92 to 4.

Three founding members of the senate’s Tea Party Caucus, Jim Demint, Mike Lee and Rand Paul, opposed ending secret holds. They said that they didn’t want to change the Senate’s rules.


Apr. 03 2011 02:53 PM

Shame on the craven House Republican "leadership" as well, for asking these two low integrity senators to squash this important legislation as a matter of Republican party priorities.

When will half our populace come to terms with exactly who the Republican party serves? Hint: it's NOT 99% of the American people.

Apr. 03 2011 11:02 AM
Marcia Blanco from Burlington, VT

I'd love to know the extent that these 3 congressmen have pushed for defunding NPR. Nice job, OTM! Why isn't this on the daily news programs?

Apr. 03 2011 10:19 AM

I don't see much difference between this tactic and denying the possibility of a quorum, both are antidemocratic.

Apr. 03 2011 07:17 AM
John from Austin

Way to go on this project OTM! Way to go!

I hope you don't shy away from using this sort of tactic every time American citizens' are ill-served by an obstructionist senator's cowardice and under-handedness.

Congress certainly has arranged for some mighty convenient gimmicks which allow for craven ways of working against the people without having to face severe consequences.

Shame on the Republican Senators Sessions and Kyl!

Apr. 02 2011 11:33 AM
Daniel Coggins from Rimini, Italy

Hey! where's the podcast?!?!?!?!?!?
If I click on the usual download link in the home page it does nothing, !!! I sure hope you haven't somehow "improved" things and decided that the downloadable podcast (NO ITUNES) isn't necessary! I hope this is just a TEMPORARY glitch!!!!

Apr. 01 2011 04:07 PM

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