My guest today is Donald Ray Soeken, author of Don't Kill the Messenger! How America's Valiant Whistleblowers Risk Everything in Order to Speak Out Against Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Business and Government.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Don. What made you qualified to write this book and why are you called "The Bulldog" for whistleblowers?
DS: I take cases no one else will - and I win. I've counseled hundreds of whistleblowers over the past 40 years. I tell all in my recent book, focusing on just a few of the whistleblowers I've helped. In some cases, we have gone to trial and won, as in the Hyatt case against Northrop. Judges have declared me an expert witness uniquely qualified to testify about whistleblower psychology. It's a tough road - all whistleblowers and all whistleblower advocates face setbacks from some of the most entrenched corrupt interests. Nevertheless, since 1980, I've helped whistleblowers win more than 100 million dollars in court awards and settlements.
JB: Wow. 100 million dollars! That's encouraging.
DS: My work has been featured around the globe, including in the New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian (U.K.), Time Magazine, Psychology Today, Business Ethics Magazine, USA Today, CBS Evening News, Associated Press, Parade Magazine, CNN and National Public Radio.
I'm proud to work for the most patriotic, hard working and committed people who want positive change for our country. Only a few people are willing to stand up against fraud, and put their jobs, their families and sometimes their lives on the line. I felt compelled to write this book to share just a few examples.JB: Okay, you've made your case! So, what happens to people after they've blown the whistle? What is going on with the VA whistleblowers that are in the news? [See USNews.com, 5.19.14: More VA Whistleblowers Coming Forward, Campaign Says]
DS: The VA whistleblowers are a perfect example. These patriots are standing up so that our returning veterans can get decent care. Many of my clients have been blowing that whistle for years. What citizen can argue that the VA whistleblowers aren't doing the right thing?
If someone had listened to whistleblowers, we could have stopped the Wall Street slide. We could have stopped the loss of America's industries, the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and avoided some wars.
We have got to stop disasters before they happen. Time and again, the only way to protect the public is to protect whistleblowers.
If you want good health care, safe streets, clean air and honest judges, value for taxpayers, basic decency and continued democracy, thank a whistleblower. For goodness sakes, without Daniel Ellsberg, Mark Felt and Jack Anderson, Richard Nixon could easily have prevailed. Citizens can never know the truth without insiders coming forward.
The truth is the most powerful weapon of all. The powerful always find the truth inconvenient. Look all the way back to the Roman emperors- they shot the messenger rather than fix the problem! Had Caesar listened to the soothsayer, things would have been a lot different.
Mark Galen wrote a long piece [see his review] tying the decay of nations to failure to heed truth-telling whistleblowers. That's where we are now. If we don't start listening to truth-tellers, we will be joining the Do-Do bird. There is no margin for error. We need people to tell the truth, and listen, fix problems, and protect our citizens.
Just like the whistleblowers at the VA are doing.
JB: What fallout do whistleblowers suffer for acting on their principles?