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Chatter of 2014 Democratic Takeover of Congress Has Begun. Will It Matter for Whistleblowers?

8:43 pm in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

Not if recent history is any indication. From Sibel Edmonds’ Classified Woman:

On the evening of November 7, 2006, I was one of many national security whistleblowers who sat behind her desktop, online, anticipating the results. Many of us stayed up until late in the night counting, anticipating, and hoping. As now we know, the Democrats won, and became the majority in both House and Senate. We thought we had won; we celebrated online–prematurely. Our list of witnesses (that included my name) and our organized case documentations were ready for our long-anticipated January and February 2007 dreams for a hearing. Now, we felt, nothing could stop us. Our day in court had arrived, courtesy of the Democrats.

The month of January came and went without a single notification, e-mail or phone call from our “handful of congressional angels,” one of whom who had become the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In February, we started to call. No one was returning them. I called and e-mailed our formerly fiery and supportive staff members from Henry Waxman’s office many times. I received no response. We tried three branches–the system of checks and balances–had been tampered with and permanently corrupted. We were a constitutional democracy in name only. Where was the rule of law? This was more than about a single issue or problem affecting some activists; this was a cancer metastisizing at its core, and the people didn’t even know about it.

(Chatter here).

Will Congress Step Up With an Amicus at MSPB or Federal Circuit to Ensure Bush/Obama Era Whistleblowers Get Justice?

11:15 pm in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

In early June, Congress, as channeled by lobbyist Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project, was keen on making sure the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act would get a “clean” savings provision that applied it retroactively, to whistleblowers who were victimized during the last few years.

By the end of August, Devine seemed to be avoiding the issue. After Labor Day, all bets were off in Congress because of “general nervousness,” even though there was “no real opposition” to retroactivity.

The end product didn’t contain the clean savings provision whistleblowers wanted, and now it’s an issue for the courts to resolve. The legal landscape isn’t promising, though presumably the Office of Special Counsel will give it its best shot.

One thing that Congress could do to get past its nervousness this time is understand that real people’s lives are affected. Here’s a running list. Congress should submit an amicus expressing unanimous approval of its newly-minted law applying retroactively. And GAP should organize it.

White House issues policy directive [promises?] national security employees whistleblower protections

5:36 am in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

gate

(photo: Scott Ableman / flickr)

Update: apparently this directive doesn’t “grant” protections so much as promises them, or something. See the comments below.

Here is a copy of the directive [PDF], obtained from federalnewsradio.com. Here is some background about what it entails:

“Protected disclosure” is defined in this document as follows (emphasis added):

(5) The term “Protected Disclosure” means:

(a) a disclosure of information by the employee to a supervisor in the employee’s direct chain of command up to and including the head of the employing agency, to the Inspector General of the employing agency or Intelligence Community Element, to the Director of National Intelligence, to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, or to an employee designated by any of the above officials for the purpose of receiving such disclosures, that the employee reasonably believes evidences (i) a violation of any law, rule, or regulation; or (ii) gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety;

(b) any communication described by and that complies with subsection (a)(1), (d), or (h) of section 8H of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.); subsection (d)(5)(A) of section 17 of the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 (50 U.S.C. 403q); or subsection (k)(5)(A), (D), or (G), of section l03H of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 403-3h);

(c) the exercise of any appeal, complaint, or grievance with regard to the violation of Section A or B of this directive;

(d) lawfully participating in an investigation or proceeding regarding a violation of Section A or B of this directive; or

(e) cooperating with or disclosing information to an Inspector General, in accordance with applicable provisions of law in connection with an audit, inspection, or investigation conducted by the Inspector General,

if the actions described under subparagraphs (c) through (e) do not result in the employee disclosing classified information or other information contrary to law.

This raises an interesting question: why doesn’t this definition include the Office of Special Counsel as an authorized recipient of (presumably classified) information?

After all, OSC is authorized by law to receive classified disclosures. So where does it fit in with this new scheme? In fact, OSC appears only once, in a discussion regarding assessing the efficacy of provisions deterring retaliation, on page 5. Why not educate employees about the OSC option? The document calls on national security officials to provide guidance for individual officers or employees regarding what disclosures are protected (also on page 5).

For more on this issue, see the following:

Open Letter to Congress: Strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act

2:10 pm in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

June 4, 2012

An Open Letter to the U.S. Congress from Federal Whistleblowers: Strengthen Whistleblower and TaxPayer Protections by Improving the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012

Dear Member of Congress:

We, the undersigned, are federal whistleblowers who have worked in a broad array of agencies and can attest to the lack of meaningful protections for conscientious truth tellers in government. We have been following the efforts of the U.S. Congress to strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) for more than a decade. During the last decade there have been six unanimous House and Senate votes in favor of restoring credibility for this hopelessly-gutted but much-needed open government reform that is a prerequisite for accountability to the taxpayers. Ironically, secret holds in the Senate repeatedly have blocked final passage, killing both whistleblowers’ rights to justice and the voters’ right to know how their money is being spent.

The necessity to pass this reform is beyond credible debate. All studies confirm that whistleblowers are the best resource against fraud, waste and abuse, exposing more than audits, compliance departments and law enforcement combined. But while Congress has provided credible rights for private sector whistleblowers, the rights themselves for government workers are a fraud.

Since Congress last “strengthened” the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1994, the track record is 3-220 against whistleblowers for final rulings on the merits. A Merit Systems Protection Board study found that whistleblowers are

–9 times more likely to get fired,

–6 times more likely to get suspended,

–5 times more likely to receive a grade-level demotion,

–2 ½ times more likely to be reassigned to a different geographical region, and

–twice as likely to be denied a promotion.

Now that the Senate has unanimously passed S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA or the Act), we call upon you to build on these reforms with H.R. 3289 by addressing recent developments that could render these protections obsolete on the first day the Act takes effect.

First, the WPEA’s protections should extend retroactively. The Senate Committee for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs noted in its committee report, No. 112-155, that it

[E]xpects and intends that the Act’s provisions shall be applied in U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and judicial proceedings initiated by or on behalf of a whistleblower and pending on or after that effective date. Such application is expected and appropriate because the legislation generally corrects erroneous decisions by the MSPB and the courts; removes and compensates for burdens that were wrongfully imposed on individual whistleblowers exercising their rights in the public interest; and improves the rules of administrative and judicial procedure and jurisdiction applicable to the vindication of whistleblowers’ rights.

We could not agree more. The number of employees filing whistleblower disclosures and complaints for prohibited personnel practices is at an all-time high. Many brave current and former employees are waiting for Congress to improve whistleblower laws to have their day in court. Many of these individuals have worked to educate the public and advocate for these reforms; it would be a cruel kind of justice to provide long-sought changes but leave them outside the Promised Land, looking in. Unfortunately, the Senate was not able to cover these individuals by including key language in the bill itself. We call upon you to give effect to the WPEA’s salutary effects by explicitly extending the Act’s reach to pending cases or those initiated on or after the effective date, as required by Supreme Court precedent.

Second, real due process rights are needed. The hallmark of due process is the jury trial – the opportunity to have one’s day in court in front of a jury of one’s peers – and all other whistleblower bills passed by Congress in the last decade have included it. Federal employees deserve the same, not second class legal status. The House should join the Senate in providing jury trial rights for federal employees.

On a related note, the Senate version makes an unacceptable tradeoff: while providing for jury trials, it also lowers the burden of proof for agencies in court. None of the corporate or contractor whistleblower laws require tougher burdens of proof as the price for jury trials.

Third, both the House and Senate versions contain a provision that will undermine the critical All Circuit Review: the ability for the Office of Personnel and Management to bring a case with “substantial impact” on the merit system back into the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit has a long and notorious reputation for being hostile to whistleblowers and showing bias for agencies. It would be detrimental to WPEA reforms to allow OPM unfettered authority to appeal major cases to the court that is responsible for undermining Congress’ intent for over 30 years.

Fourth, Congress should overrule the precedent set by the MSPB in MacLean v. Department of Homeland Security, which allowed agencies to use Sensitive Security Information (SSI) and over 100 other non-classified, pseudo-secrecy categories under the new Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) Executive Order to cancel WPA free speech rights. As civil service law is now written, this new Executive Order designed to shrink irresponsible government secrecy could become the largest gag order on whistleblowers in history. Congress was clear in 1978 – only statutes, their judicial interpretations, and Executive Order designate what is a disclosure prohibited by law. Congress should send a clear message by reining in federal agencies,which have incentives to retroactively designate disclosures SSI or CUI to get rid of whistleblowers.

Finally, MSPB should not be granted summary judgment powers. The reasons for this are many, but some of these include:

–MSPB was designed by Congress to be a forum for quick and simple dispute resolution. Summary judgment is a complicated legal maneuver that will upset the balance struck by Congress in 1978 and 1989; it would require federal employees at all levels of government to act as their own lawyers to protect their interests, or hire ones on their own dime.

–MSPB judges would likely abuse summary judgment powers. The MSPB has a poor track record of protecting whistleblowers and willfully thwarted the intent of Congress’ major whistleblower laws. Additionally, some MSPB judges virtually never grant jurisdiction in whistleblower reprisal cases, forcing the Board to remand cases back with jurisdictional instructions, prolonging litigation and increasing the cost to appellants.

–Summary judgment prevents appellants from cross-examining witnesses who provide adverse written statements. The likeliest scenario is that federal managers and adverse witnesses would provide affidavits that are unfavorable to appellants. Without depositions, appellants would not be able to cross-examine the authors to expose any weaknesses in their written statements.

–Acquiring witnesses for depositions is costly. Agencies must make employee-witnesses available free of cost to appellants at the hearing. However, if summary judgment is granted, there will be no hearing.

–MSPB’s stated justification for summary judgment — to “speed case processing” — is not an appropriate reason. Burdening appellants with onerous legal requirements and then denying them the opportunity to make their case in a hearing is one way to speed case processing, but protecting due process is more important. The solution to backlogs and delays is not instituting a system that is more onerous; instead, MSPB judges must apply the law in good faith and without bias, thus decreasing the number of unnecessary remands.

The last congressional election was decided by voters who are fed up with fraud, waste and abuse by government bureaucracies. Fighting those breakdowns in accountability was the new majority’s campaign commitment. We whistleblowers risk our careers for that campaign rhetoric. It is long past time for results by those who campaign on the principles we live. There is no reason for further delay in finishing the job, and doing it right. What are we waiting for?

Sincerely,

Ray Adams
Air Traffic Controller
Federal Aviation Administration / Department of Transportation

Evelynn Brown, J.D., LLM
Former Federal Program Officer
Administration for Children and Families / Department of Health and Human Services

Gabe Bruno
Retired Manager, Flight Standards Service
Federal Aviation Administration / Department of Transportation

Kim A. Farrington
Former Aviation Safety Inspector – Cabin Safety
Federal Aviation Administration / Department of Transportation

Rand L. Foster
Aviation Safety Inspector
Federal Aviation Administration / Department of Transportation

Edward Jeszka
Retired Aviation Safety Inspector
Federal Aviation Administration / Department of Transportation

Douglas Kinan
Former Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist
Defense Contract Management Agency / Department of Defense

Robert J. MacLean
Federal Air Marshal
Transportation Security Administration / Department of Homeland Security

David Pardo
Former Attorney/Advisor
Federal Aviation Administration / Department of Transportation

Dr. Janet Parker M.S., DVM
Executive Director, Medical Whistleblower
Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network – Human Rights Defenders

Spencer A. Pickard
Federal Air Marshal
Transportation Security Administration / Department of Homeland Security

George G. Sarris
Aircraft Mechanic
Offutt AFB, Nebraska

Jane Turner
Former Special Agent
Federal Bureau of Investigation / Department of Justice

Glenn A. Walp, Ph.D.
Former Office Leader of the Office of Security Inquiries
Los Alamos National Laboratory / Department of Energy

Richard Wyeroski
Former Aviation Safety Inspector
Federal Aviation Administration / Department of Transportation

 

Dissenters’ Digest for May 13-19

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

Whistle Suits (image: Truthout.org/flickr)

Dissenters’ Digest takes a look back at the week’s stories covering whistleblowers, watchdogs, and government accountability. Look for it every Saturday evening at www.mspbwatch.net/digest.

Federal Judge Strikes Down NDAA’s Indefinite Detention Provision: A federal judge in Brooklyn, New York struck down the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act, saying it constitutes an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment. The suit was brought by several journalists who feared their activities might fall under the reach of the law — substantially supporting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces – without even knowing it, and facing indefinite detention for many years. The judge, Katherine Forrest, repeatedly offered government lawyers the opportunity to rebut the reporters’ fears, but they declined to do so.

Below the Fold:

–A Malaysian tribunal found George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfel, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington and William J. Haynes guilty of war crimes.

–The Washington Post editorial board calls on the Federal Aviation Administration to take whistleblowers’ complaints seriously.

–The ACLU is weighing in on behalf of Peter Van Buren, the State Department whistleblower who wrote a book and blog critical of his employer’s exploits in Iraq.

–A Homeland Security House subcommittee looks at corruption inside DHS.

–Employees at a nuclear waste site in Washington state are coming forward, saying too many shortcuts are being taken in the construction of a facility to dispose the waste.

–An FBI crime lab whistleblower’s 20 year campaign to expose and correct violations of defendants’ due process rights is beginning to bear fruit.

–House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa is alleging the Federal Maritime Commission may be “an agency in crisis.”

–Union protectionism in 1994 may haunt whistleblowers and the Office of Special Counsel in 2012.

–Several whistleblowers and advocacy groups will host an annual conference in Washington, D.C., May 21-23.

Send tips to tips@mspbwatch.net.

Dissenters’ Digest for April 29-May 5

4:00 pm in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

(photo: Steven DePaulo/flickr)

Dissenters’ Digest takes a look back at the week’s stories covering whistleblowers, watchdogs, and government accountability. Look for it every Saturday evening at www.mspbwatch.net/digest.

Torture is Back in the News: The Government Accountability Project calls for the prosecution of admitted CIA torturer Jose Rodriguez, who recently crowed about destroying 92 video tapes of torture footage in a new book. Separately, Rodriguez alleges in his book that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lied about tacitly approving waterboarding in 2002, according to the Washington Post. Further, UCLA law professor and torture memos author John Yoo is immune from liability in the United States for the torture of Jose Padilla, according to a recent opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Below the Fold:

–The Administrative Conference of the United States is teaming up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on regulatory reform. The Center for Progressive Reform objects.

–FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds overcomes FBI pre-approval for the publication of her book criticizing the FBI over 9/11 missteps.

–EPA whistleblower William Sanjour looks at why agencies fail to regulate properly, and offers prescriptive advice.

–The Department of Health and Human Services is in violation of the No FEAR Act of 2002, and has been since 2002, according to a recent Freedom of Information Act response.

–A federal court in New Orleans will preliminarily approve the $7.8 billion settlement with victims of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill.

–House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is preparing a contempt of Congress charge against Attorney Eric Holder over the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal.

–The Drug Enforcement Administration leaves a college student in a jail cell for five days without food or water.

–The Make It Safe Campaign, an umbrella group of whistleblower and government accountability advocates, is considering enfranchisement and open-process reforms following a general meeting last Tuesday.

Send tips to tips@mspbwatch.net.

Dissenters’ Digest for April 1-7

2:00 pm in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

Dissenters’ Digest takes a look back at the week’s stories covering whistleblowers, watchdogs, and government accountability. Look for it every Saturday evening at www.mspbwatch.net/digest.

Justice Department Indicts Former CIA Officer, Whistleblower, and Torture Opponent: NPR reports that John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer and outspoken torture opponent, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act by sharing secret information with reporters. The Government Accountability Project notes that Kiriakou is the first and only person to be indicted by the U.S. government who is associated with the Bush Administration’s torture program. GAP further notes that Kiriakou is the sixth whistleblower to be prosecuted by the Obama Administration. Emptywheel has additional coverage.

Watchdog Uncovers State Department Memo Casting Doubt on Legality of Bush Administration’s Interrogation Techniques: As reported by Firedoglake, a 2006 State Department memo casting doubt on Justice Department arguments approving the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” has been uncovered. The author of that memo, Philip Zelikow, was a counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It is believed that the Bush Administration attempted to destroy all copies of that memo, but the non-profit National Security Archive obtained one from the State Department through a Freedom of Information request. Emptywheel has additional coverage. Zelikow’s memo can be found here.

New York Times Report Portrays FDA as Victim of White House Politicization: The New York Times reports that FDA officials were instructed to reverse decisions such as publicizing the caloric content of movie-theater popcorn. The overall tenor of the piece portrays White House officials as shrewd and pragmatic, with FDA officials seen as public-minded, if not “naive.” However, there may be some image management going on following recent and troubling reports of retaliation and spying on whistleblowers, who came forward to allege corruption within FDA and the improper approval of unsafe medical devices. The Office of Special Counsel has opened an investigation into these allegations. GAP and the National Whistleblowers Center have coverage of the FDA.

Below the Fold:

–President Obama signs the STOCK Act, requiring financial disclosure by members of Congress and federal executives.

–Lavish Las Vegas conference costs top GSA officials their jobs. Congress is said to investigate.

–The Obama Administration quietly appoints a new FAA chief counsel with extensive ties to the White House.

–EEOC is urged to tackle conflicts of interest in discrimination complaint process.

–The U.S. government aims to protect secrecy in Bradley Manning’s court martial.

–The Office of Special Counsel is currently experiencing an 8-9 month delay in processing FOIA requests, according to recent communications with its FOIA officer.

Send tips to info at mspbwatch dot net.

Dissenters’ Digest for March 25-31

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

Dissenters’ Digest takes a look back at the week’s stories covering whistleblowers, watchdogs, and government accountability. Look for it every Saturday evening at www.mspbwatch.net/digest.

Department of Justice’s Recent Actions Worry Accountability and Transparency Advocates: A number of actions taken by the Department of Justice have caught the attention of government accountability groups and civil libertarians this week.

First, Wired reports that the FBI advised its agents in training materials that they may “bend or suspend the law and impinge upon the freedom of others” under certain situations. That training material has since been changed.

Next, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on the misconduct of federal prosecutors in the trial of the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. A $1 million525-page court-appointed report found that these prosecutors withheld key evidence from Stevens’ defense counsel, in violation of ethical rules. The Stevens case was dropped by Attorney General Holder in April 2009. Following the publication of the report on May 15, Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced legislation to prevent the reoccurrence of the same prosecutorial misconduct, which was met with anonymous opposition by DOJ officials. Emptywheel and the Blog of Legal Times have coverage of that opposition.

Finally, a DOJ proposed rule has caught the attention of Senators and FOIA advocates, who noted that DOJ seemed to be usurping the role of the newly-created FOIA ombudsman, the Office of Government Information Service (OGIS). OGIS is an agency within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and was created by the OPEN Government Act of 2007 to mediate disputes between requesters and federal agencies. Its station with NARA is not without purpose, as housing it within DOJ – which is responsible for defending federal agencies in FOIA lawsuits – would have created a conflict of interest. Senators Patrick Leahy and Jon Kyl sent a letter to Attorney General Holder, the Project on Government Oversight reports. DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs responded to POGO with a clarification that seems to put that particular matter to rest, but another FOIA matter is still under dispute.

Supreme Court Weakens Privacy Act: In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that the Privacy Act does not authorize damages for emotional distress, NPR reports. The suit was brought by a pilot who sued the Social Security Administration for disclosing information to the FAA relating to his HIV status, causing him to lose his license and suffer emotional distress. In a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, Justice Sotomayor writes that the ruling “cripples the Act’s core purpose of redressing and deterring violations of privacy interests.” The Washington Post has additional coverage.

Congressmen Support Long-Suffering Whistleblower: Three House members recently submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in support of TSA Whistleblower Robert MacLean, according to the Orange County Register. In 2003, MacLean disclosed to the press a TSA plan to cut back on federal air marshals at a time of heightened security alerts. This prompted congressional outrage and the TSA plan was scrapped. MacLean’s case has been tied up in litigation since 2006, when he was terminated from the TSA. GovExec and GAP have additional coverage.

Obama Official Declares “Zero Tolerance” on Veterans’ Discrimination: John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, declared “zero tolerance” for discrimination against uniformed service members returning to their civilian jobs. Berry’s comments follow a report last month by The Washington Post that the U.S. government is the top offender of USERRA, the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which is designed to protect service members from discrimination in the workplace.

Below the Fold:

–The State Department moves to fire a prominent critic and whistleblower.

–GAO: Air Force has a disproportionate number of whistle-blower complaints within DOD.

–OccupyEPA takes to the streets, demands administrator’s resignation.

–A foreclosure fraud whistleblower reports being harassed by mortgage lender despite winning an $18 million award.

–A whistleblowers’ lawyer and a corporate lawyer mix it up on a whistleblower panel.

–Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduces a bill to reform the Senior Executive Service.

–The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board took no action to study work conditions at the Office of Special Counsel following the controversial tenure of ex-Special Counsel Scott Bloch, according to a recent FOIA request.

–A House Subcommittee hearing on low morale at the Department of Homeland Security but fails to call any employees as witnesses.

Send tips to info at mspbwatch dot net.

Will the new Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act apply retroactively?

11:06 am in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

Not without legislative changes. Right now, the two bills (S. 743 and H.R. 3289) state that the law will take effect 30 days after enactment. But there is nothing about whether it will apply to cases pending at the time of enactment, or conduct that occurred before the bill but where no case has been brought.

In other words, if you’re waiting for the new bill to pass before bringing a complaint for reprisal or other PPP, the new law may not help you.

What would?

A simple legislative fix, such as:

This Act shall control any administrative proceeding pending at the time such provision takes effect.

The background rule is that a Supreme Court case from 1994,  Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U.S. 244, 114 S.Ct. 1483, 128 L.Ed.2d 229 (1994), states that the presumption is that new laws will not be retroactive unless Congress rebuts this presumption by clearly intending to apply it retroactively. The proposed legislative language above should pass muster, especially since it was blessed by the Federal Circuit in 1996:

Congress easily could have modified the deleted provision to indicate that “the Act shall control any administrative proceeding pending at the time such provision takes effect.” Congress failed to do that in this case and we will not read this language into the statute.

Some additional background is that the 1989 WPA applied retroactively (as noted by the OSC annual report for 1991, pages 9, 11), but the 1994 reauthorization did not because of Landgraf and because it did not have the right legislative language.

So, if you want WPEA to apply to you, contact your member of Congress and Tom Devine, Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project, who is the lead author of WPEA. He may be reached at 202-457-0034 or tomd@whistleblower.org.

 

The more things change…

11:21 am in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

It used to be, before 1883, that civil servants and applicants for federal government jobs would lobby Congress and political parties for appointments, at all levels. Congress would extort campaign contributions in return, leading to a downward spiral of incompetent governance.

Then President Garfield was assassinated by someone who campaigned for him but was spurned for a job after Garfield’s election. So Vice President Chester A. Arthur, on taking over the presidency, lobbied and got passed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883. That law created the Civil Service Commission, which existed until 1979, when it was replaced by MSPB, OPM, and FLRA (Federal Labor Relations Authority).

From the First Annual Report of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, 1884:

There can be no more emphatic evidence that the old [spoils] system had become intolerable than the passage of the [Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883], by which members of Congress made a patriotic surrender of so much of their patronage.

and,

Member of Congress, pursued alike by the importunate appeals of those seeking office as a charity and by the clamor and threats of those demanding it as a reward for partisan work, were no longer independent. They were almost forced to devote to office-seeking the time needed for legislation, and to foist incompetent supernumeraries upon the public treasury which it was their special duty to protect.

http://mspbwatch.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/first-ar-of-the-uscsc.pdf, page 11 (emphasis added).

As mentioned above, today we don’t have an official patronage system by which Congress collects campaign contributions from partisan civil servants. But isn’t there a de facto spoils system when lobbyists write more legislation than do the politicians?