Last evening, September 4, 2013, in my tiny town of Wilson, Texas, I had a chance for a quick and informal talk with Congressman Neugebauer at a fundraiser for "Tractor Drive 2013, Drive Hunger out of Rural Texas." Normally, given such an opportunity, I would salivate at the chance to get in a few hard-hitting questions, such as about Neugebauer's vote against reining in NSA data collections or his views on NSA Truth Tellers. However, a fund raiser for hunger at a high school, where an open forum for formal questions has not been set up, is not the appropriate time and place. Nevertheless, as it turned out, the Congressman was kind enough to speak with me with no prior warning, so out of respect for the event I kept things light.
Tractor Drive 2013 Driving Hunger out of Rural Texas Wilson, TX by self
introduced myself as the Whistleblower against Peanut Corp., Program Manager
for Drum Majors for Truth, and a fellow graduate of Coronado High School in
Lubbock, Texas, and the congressman agreed to answer a couple questions.
It never hurts to use a little high school pride to break the ice. Congressman Neugebauer is a staunch Conservative Republican, as most people in this area are. Since I consider myself much more moderate, I stated up front that I did not agree with many of his views. Neugebauer is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance and has expressed support of the PATH ACT, which would deregulate much of the legislation of the Dodd-Frank Act. I expressed my concern with the PATH Act and how it would change current Whistleblower rights. Congressman Neugebauer responded that the current legislation "went a little overboard with regulation" but that the Whistleblower Provisions of Dodd-Frank "were not one of the issues of concern." I do hope the congressman meant that the Whistleblower protections of the Dodd-Frank Act will remain intact, as many Truth Tellers have come forward based on this legislation who were previously unprotected by the False Claims Act. The 2012 SEC Annual Report on the Frank-Dodd Whistleblower Program shows just how effective this provision has been, and I hope the major provisions and protections remain intact.
On September 10, 2013 a hearing entitled "Reducing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Housing Programs: Inspector General Perspectives." is set to take place. I asked Congressman Neugebauer whether, given his own historical stance on deregulation and in light of this hearing, he expected Whistleblowers to still receive protection for reporting fraud, waste, or abuse within the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. I was pleasantly surprised when he responded, "Of course, there has to be accountability." Once again I hope that is the case not only with respect to the legislation, but in practice.
Although I do not agree with Congressman Neugebauer on many issues, I do appreciate his giving me a few moments of his time at this worthy event. His words seemed genuine, as those of most politicians do, but I do hope his support of Whistleblowers, at least with respect to the Dodd-Frank Act and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, remains genuine.