Q: What prompted your decades-long support for whistleblowers?
A: The founding cornerstone of American self-government “of, by and for the people” means government works for the people, not the other way around. My approach to representative government is rooted in this basic principle. I work for Iowans. That means I work tirelessly to keep in touch with my constituents. I want to know what’s on their minds and what keeps them up at night. That also means I keep a tight-fisted grip on the purse strings. Too many people in Washington think the federal treasury is a cash cow to milk for unlimited government spending. Without robust oversight, taxpayer dollars get squandered through wasteful spending, fraud and mismanagement as they make their way through the sprawling federal bureaucracy. Even if I had eyes on the back of my head, I wouldn’t be able to ferret out misuse of taxpayer dollars approved by Congress for national security, health care, pandemic relief and more. From Pentagon cost-overruns and wasteful spending, such as $1,300 coffee mugs to $10,000 toilet seat lids, I work to root out waste, fraud and abuse. Without question, information provided to my office from whistleblowers helps me do my job protecting taxpayer dollars, veterans programs and nuclear safety. It takes a lot of guts for whistleblowers to stick their necks out to report wrongdoing. That’s why I’ve led a crusade to enact whistleblower protections and incentives into law that empower them to come forward without fear of retribution or reprisal. According to the Department of Justice, the False Claims Act serves as one of the federal government’s most important tools to detect and deter fraudsters from swindling government programs to line their own pockets. Since my updates were enacted in 1986, False Claims Act recoveries have exceeded more than $70 billion in settlements and judgments and saved untold taxpayers dollars that otherwise would have been lost to fraud. In recent years, the False Claims Act has been used to combat and disrupt unlawful kickbacks, payment schemes and unnecessary medical services that defraud federal health programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE. Specifically, the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act recovered $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2021. The provision I wrote in 1986 empowers whistleblowers who put their careers and livelihoods on the line to report wrongdoing. If the government prevails in a qui tam action, the whistleblower receives a portion of the recovery. In any organization, there’s pressure to go along to get along and whistleblowers are too often treated as the skunk at a Sunday afternoon picnic. As long as I’m serving in the U.S. Senate, I’ll continue championing brave truth-tellers who courageously report misdeeds to save taxpayer dollars and strengthen government programs intended to serve the public.
Q: Why are you working to reform the IRS whistleblower program?
A: With 40-year high record inflation, Americans are scraping by to pay their bills, fill up their gas tanks and put food on the table. Add in local, state and federal taxes, and U.S. households really feel the pinch. Of course, tax cheats who don’t pay their taxes create a bigger burden on law-abiding Americans to foot the bill. That’s unfair. In 2006, I wrote the law establishing the IRS whistleblower office. Since then, the program has helped save more than $6 billion for the taxpayer. I’m working to strengthen the program even more. My bill would provide additional protections to whistleblowers who appeal their cases to tax court and exempt whistleblower awards from budget sequestration to ensure they receive the full amount they are owed for coming forward with the information that helped identify tax cheats and free loaders. Big spenders who want to raise taxes in these inflationary times ought to be looking to provide targeted tax relief and ensure those who owe taxes pay their full freight.
July 30 is National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. As co-founder and co-chairman of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, Senator Grassley welcomes individuals to report wrongdoing to his Senate office to help protect taxpayer dollars, hold wrongdoers accountable and make government operate more effectively and efficiently on behalf of the American people.