My guest today is Jim Murtagh, a fellow editor at OpEdNews. Welcome, Jim. We're here today to talk about the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act that is currently wending its way through the final days of the lame duck session in Congress. Before we get started, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and why this is of particular interest to you?
Thanks, Joan. As you know, I'm been the whistleblower editor of OpEdNews since June, 2008. I'm a practicing doctor of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and the Medical Director of Sleepcare Eastgate Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Formerly, I was tenured Associate Professor at Emory University. I also have a background as molecular biology, and was the Director of the Molecular Core Facility of the VA in Atlanta. Before that, I worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In 2008, I formed a group called the International Association of Whistleblowers (IAW), which I co-chair with Mike McCray. We work with prominent whistleblowers such as Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (aka the Insider) and advocates like Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project. Our goal has been to promote public safety and the public good by protecting Persons of Conscience, also known as whistleblowers.
In the last few years, we've seen huge catastrophes that could have been avoided if whistleblowers had been protected. The collapse of our industry, the banking crisis, the oil spill, you name it, could have been avoided if people of conscience had been listened to. The public really loses out when whistleblowers are silenced. Bad information led to wars. We want the public to be safer, our nation more secure, and an end to waste fraud and abuse.
Who's in the IAW? Does your group have a partisan slant, Jim?
We are bipartisan. Senator Charles Grassley has done a great deal for this movement. President Obama was the lawyer for one of the members of our group before he went into politics. The recent deficit reduction committee could agree on exactly one thing: that we need to end waste fraud and abuse. More than 10% of our national budget is estimated to be lost to fraud. Nobody but the fraudsters wants such a huge loss.
In medicine, preventable medical error is a leading cause of loss of life. But if a doctor comes forward to report the loss or try to improve the system, his career can be and usually is completely cut down by secret unscrupulous "peer reviews" behind close doors. So every patient in the country is put at risk because doctors are unable to speak out and ask for improvements.
I've written all of this in OpEdNews. OEN has been a great outlet for our materials, and we've made full use of it. We've pulled together more than 200 good government groups working together for transparency, transpartisanship and transcendent whistleblower protection.
If everyone is in agreement that whistleblowers should be protected, what's the problem? And what's the rush? Isn't any session of Congress as good as any other, in respect to this overwhelmingly popular bill?
It's all coming to a showdown this week. My friend Tom Devine has worked for over a decade to try and get protection for whistleblowers passed. Amazingly, he passed it many times. But one Senator repeatedly put a hold on the legislation, even after it was passed unanimously by the rest of his peers!
Now, we are racing to get it finally passed in this lame duck. We know we don't have a chance if the new Congress comes in and undoes our decade of work. Again incredibly, Tom Devine and the 200 united groups got the Senate to pass the WPEA again. The logjam is broken! No Senator has attached a hold. I can't believe this has gotten done during the lame duck with so many other national items on the agenda.
That's exciting and encouraging. Now what?
One final hurdle. The Senate bill now has to pass the House on an up or down vote. We're out of time. There can't be any change made to the bill. One change kills the bill. This all has to happen in the next several days.
Can you just take one second to explain why a change in the bill ends up killing it? What if it makes the bill better?