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Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Increase Protections for Consumers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Nafia Khan   
Friday, 20 July 2012 13:05

New Laws Protect Consumers from False Charges, Help them Resolve Billing and Credit Issues and Increase Utility Choice

CHICAGO - July 18, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today continued his long history of fighting for consumers by signing four new laws that will increase protections for consumers. The new laws ban false phone charges known as “cramming,” lower utility costs for consumers and help them resolve billing and credit issues to improve their credit scores. The governor was joined by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, legislators and members of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), the consumer rights watchdog group founded by Governor Quinn 30 years ago.

“When everyday people work together for the common good, we can improve our state,” Governor Quinn said. “We need to keep fighting for consumer rights in Illinois and ensure those rights are protected from those who would take advantage of them.”

House Bill 5211, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park) and Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), would ban third-party vendors from charging customers for unwanted services, a practice known as cramming, starting Jan. 1, 2013. The bill was an initiative of the Attorney General’s office, which found vendors using deceptive sales pitches and placing unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills for things they never intended to buy including calling cards, voice mail service, credit repair services, extended warranties and toll-free numbers for free long distance service.

Most often, these charges range from $10 to $45 dollars and go undetected because consumers do not pay attention to all the details in their phone bills. According to the Attorney General’s Office, phone bill "cramming" is a $2 billion a year business. An estimated 15 to 20 million American households receive at least 300 million third-party charges on their bills each year. Only about one out of every 20 cramming victims becomes aware of the charges.

“Today we can finally put an end to a pervasive scam that has allowed phone companies to rake in $2 billion a year by ‘cramming’ charges on subscribers’ bills for unwanted and unused services,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Far too many consumers have opened their monthly phone bills to find bogus charges they never authorized. I applaud the governor for his support of this law to stop to our phone numbers being used as credit cards by scammers.”

“This is an important measure to save consumers from hassle,” said Rep. Burke. “This new law will prevent lots of businesses, nonprofits and everyday citizens from encountering this practice.”

“No one should have to pay for services they don’t want and didn’t order,” said Sen. Koehler.  “The fact that ‘cramming’ scam artists target seniors and other vulnerable Illinois residents makes me especially proud that we are outlawing this practice.”

Governor Quinn also signed three additional laws to require utilities to notify credit-reporting bureaus when billing issues have been resolved and allow townships to aggregate power purchasing, which will increase competition and lower costs. The new laws are designed to lower utility costs for consumers and help them resolve billing and credit issues.

House Bill 5025, sponsored by Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago) and Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago) will help consumers resolve negative action on their credit scores by requiring public utilities to notify credit reporting agencies when a customer has paid off their outstanding balances in full. This measure will allow utility customers to be more quickly relieved of pressure from collection agencies and help them improve their credit scores. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

Senate Bill 3170 sponsored by Rep. JoAnn Osmond (R-Antioch) and Sen. Suzi Schmidt (R-Lake Villa), allows townships to participate in electrical aggregation the same way counties and municipalities can under current law. Aggregation allows for greater group energy purchasing, which increases competition and lowers costs for consumers. According to the Illinois Commerce Commission, more than 90 municipalities have become power aggregators since 2010, which has allowed for greater consumer savings. The law goes into effect immediately.

Senate Bill 3811, sponsored by Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) and Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) protects the ability of certain groups to continue to benefit from “net metering,” which allows customers who generate their own renewable energy to sell excess power back to an electricity provider. The new law takes into account the increased aggregation and alternative energy sources more Illinois communities are now using. The measure provides that net metering customers will be treated equally regardless of the competitiveness of their local energy market. The law goes into effect immediately.

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Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty Hails 34th Senate Signature Rejecting L.O.S.T. PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Travis Korson   
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 08:41
Washington, D.C., July 18, 2012- The Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty applauds the announcement that opponents of Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) have secured enough votes to block ratification. The count of 34 votes rejecting the treaty was reached when Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) signed onto letter of opposition circulated by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), and Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) issued their own letter publicly expressing their opposition to the treaty.
The victory comes after a culmination of efforts by Americans across the country, Congressional leadership as well as the Coalition and other military, business and conservative leaders, to express their concerns that LOST’s ratification would prove inimical to both the national security interests and sovereignty of the United States.
On June 14th a group of senior retired U.S. military leaders – who had earned among them a total of 33 stars – released a letter through the Coalition voicing serious concerns regarding LOST. This letter was sent on the day Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, convened a hearing on LOST featuring six currently serving U.S. military commanders – what he has called his “24-star panel” – who argued in favor of ratification. Since then, several additional military leaders, including two former Chiefs of Naval Operations - for a total of three - have signed on as well.
On June 28th a group of oil and gas industry leaders also sent a letter to Committee Chairman John Kerry, to provide an alternate opinion to a business hearing for the treaty where only proponents of the treaty were allowed to testify. Their letter expressed serious concerns about the net effect this accord would have on U.S. national, as well as commercial, interests.
The 34 Senators who have expressed opposition to the treaty are as follows:
  • Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
  • Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
  • Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
  • John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
  • John Boozman (R-Ark.)
  • Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
  • Dan Coats (R-Ind.)
  • Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
  • John Cornyn (R-Texas)
  • Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
  • Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)
  • Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
  • Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
  • Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
  • John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
  • Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
  • Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)
  • Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)
  • Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)
  • Mike Lee (R-Utah)
  • Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
  • Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
  • Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
  • Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)
  • Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
  • Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
  • Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
  • John Thune (R-S.D.)
  • Pat Toomey (R-Penn.)
  • David Vitter (R-La.)
  • Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. of the Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty said:
Today’s announcement that the Senate opponents of the Law of the Sea Treaty have secured sufficient commitments to block ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty is a great victory for American sovereignty. Despite Senator Kerry’s efforts to present a selective rendering of this treaty the truth about LOST emerged - due in large part to the tireless efforts of a team of legislators and their staff and public spirited citizens who aroused their countrymen to the perils associated with LOST. The country owes a debt of gratitude to these patriots. The decision clearly shows that when the public is presented with an unadulterated perspective on the issues, they will arrive at the proper conclusion.
Military leaders who expressed their opposition to LOST through the Coalition include:
  • Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.), former Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Forces Command; former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
  • Adm. Bruce Demars USN (Ret.), former Director Naval Nuclear Propulsion
  • Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, USN (Ret.), former Chief of Naval Operations
  • Admiral Jim Holloway, USN (Ret.) former Chief of Naval Operations
  • Adm. Frank Kelso USN (Ret.), former Chief of Naval Operations
  • Adm. G.E.R. Kinnear II, USN (Ret.), former U.S. Member of the NATO Military Committee
  • Gen. Richard L. Lawson, USAF (Ret.), former Deputy Commander-in Chief, Headquarters U.S. European Command
  • Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, Jr., USN (Ret.), former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
  • Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, USAF (Ret.), former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, USAF
  • Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, USN (Ret.), former Director of Navy Research, Development Testing and Evaluation
  • Gen. Carl E. Mundy, Jr., USMC (Ret.), former Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Adm. Leighton “Snuffy” Smith, USN (Ret.), former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy Forces Europe and NATO Allied Forces Southern Europe
Business leaders who expressed their opposition to LOST through the Coalition include:
  • Raul Brito, President, Brito Oil Company
  • Steve Dillard, Vice President, Pickrell Drilling Company
  • Mike Dixon, Owner, Dixon Oil and Gas, Inc.
  • Hon. Dennis Hedke, Owner, Hedke Saenger Geoscience Ltd.
  • Bill Johnson, Partner, McCoy Petroleum Corporation
  • A. Scott Ritchie III, President, Ritchie Exploration, Inc.
  • Scott Stewart, Owner, Bird Dog Oil LLC
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FDA whistleblower spying scandal PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 15:46

Floor Speech of Sen. Chuck Grassley

FDA Whistleblower Spying

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I rise today to speak about a federal agency that has forgotten that it works for the American public.

This is an agency that has gotten too big for its britches.

Some of its officials have forgotten who pays their salaries.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to work to protect the American people.

Except lately, the only thing the FDA bureaucrats seem to have any interest in protecting is themselves.

According to whistleblowers and published reports in the Washington Post and New York Times, the agency in charge of safeguarding American public safety has trampled on the privacy of its employees.

The FDA mounted an aggressive campaign against employees who dared to question its actions and created what the New York Times termed an “enemies list” of people it considered dangerous.

The FDA has been spying on this “enemies list.”

The FDA has been spying on the personal emails of these employees and everyone they contacted.

That includes their protected communications with Congress.

We would not have known the extent of the spying if internal FDA documents about it had not been released on the Internet, apparently by accident.

We would not have known how the FDA intentionally targeted and capture confidential, personal emails between the whistleblowers, their lawyers, and Congress.

In these internal documents that FDA never wanted the public to see, it refers to the whistleblowers as “collaborators.”

FDA refers to congressional staff as “ancillary actors.”

FDA refers to the newspaper reporters as “media outlet actors.”

These memos make the FDA sound more like the East German Stasi than a consumer protection agency in a free country.

At the beginning of Commissioner Hamburg’s term she said whistleblowers exposed critical issues within FDA.

She vowed to create a culture that values whistleblowers.

In fact, in 2009, she said, and I quote, “I think whistleblowers serve an important role.”

I wanted to believe Commissioner Hamburg when she testified before the Senate during her confirmation.

I wanted to believe her when she said she would protect whistleblowers at the FDA.

However, the facts now appear very different.

In this case the FDA invaded the privacy of multiple whistleblowers.

It hacked into their private e-mail accounts and used sophisticated keystroke logging software to monitor their every move online.

When an FDA supervisor was placed under oath in the course of an equal employment opportunity complaint, he testified that the FDA was conducting “routine security monitoring.”

That is false.

This monitoring was anything but routine.

It was targeted specifically at five whistleblowers.

It intentionally captured their private emails to attorneys, Congress, and the Office of Special Counsel.

The internal documents show that this was a unique, highly sophisticated, and highly specialized operation.

According to the Office of Inspector General, the FDA had no evidence of any criminal wrong-doing by the whistleblowers.

This massive campaign of spying was not just an invasion of privacy; it was specifically designed to intercept communications that are protected by law.

The Office of Special Counsel is an agency created by Congress to receive whistleblower complaints and protect whistleblowers from retaliation.

The law protects communications with the Special Counsel as a way to encourage whistleblowers to report waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or threats to public safety without fear of retaliation.

The FDA knew that contacts between whistleblowers and the Office of Special Counsel are privileged and confidential.

But, the James Bond wanna-be’s at the FDA just didn’t care.

In the end, the self-appointed spies turned out to be more like the bumbling Maxwell Smart.

Along with their own internal memos about the spying, the fruits of their labor were also accidentally posted on the Internet.

It’s tens of thousands of pages of emails and pictures of the whistleblowers’ computer screens, containing some of the very same information that the FDA bureaucrats were so keen to keep secret.

When I started asking questions about this, FDA officials seemed to suffer from a sudden bout of collective amnesia.

It took them more than six months to answer my letter from last January.

When I pushed for a reply during those six months, FDA told my staff that that the response would take time to make sure it was accurate and complete.

When I finally got the response on Friday, it doesn’t even answer the simplest of questions, such as who authorized this targeted spy ring.

Worse than that, it is misleading in its denials about intentionally intercepting communications with Congress.

When I asked them why they couldn’t just answer some simple questions, they told my staff that the response was under review by the “appropriate officials in the Administration.”

The non-answers and double-speak would have fit right into a George Orwell novel.

Of course, when my staff dug deeper and asked if the response was being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, FDA responded, no.

FDA refused to identify who within the Administration was holding up the FDA’s response to my letter.

FDA refused to say how long it had been sitting on that person’s desk or why it had to be approved by political officials outside the FDA.

Who is this shadowy figure conducting some secret review of FDA’s response to my questions?

Why was there all of the sudden interest in exerting political control over the correspondence of this supposedly independent Federal agency?

We need answers and we need them now.

I have been demanding answers for six months.

For the past six months FDA has been telling me to be patient.

FDA has been telling me that they have “a good story to tell.”

Apparently, though, there’s someone in the Obama Administration who didn’t want them to say anything for as long as possible.

I finally got Commissioner Hamburg on the phone in June.

Commissioner Hamburg personally assured me that the FDA was going to fully cooperate with my investigation.

Yet – the FDA has provided me with nothing but misleading and incomplete responses.

The FDA has failed to measure up to Commissioner Hamburg’s pledge of cooperation.

The FDA buried its head in the sand in hopes that I will lose interest and go away.

That’s not going to happen.

I don’t care who is in charge of the executive branch, Republican or Democrat, I will not stop demanding answers.

When government bureaucrats obstruct and intercept my communications with protected whistleblowers, I will not stop.

When government bureaucrats stonewall for months on end, I will not stop.

When government bureaucrats try and muddy the waters and mislead, I will not stop.

I will get to the bottom of it.

I will continue to press the FDA until we know who authorized spying on whistleblowers.

Someone within the FDA specifically authorized spying on private communications with my office and with several other Members of Congress.

Someone at FDA specifically authorized spying on private communications with Congressman Van Hollen’s office.

Someone at FDA specifically authorized spying on private communications with staff at the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Someone at FDA specifically authorized spying on private communications with the Office of Special Counsel.

These whistleblowers thought the FDA was approving drugs and treatments that it shouldn’t.

These whistleblowers thought the FDA was caving to pressure from the companies that were applying for FDA approval.

They have a right to express those concerns without fear of retaliation.

But after doing so, two of them were fired.

Two more were forced to leave FDA.

And five of them were subjected to an intense spying campaign.

Senior FDA officials may have broken the law.

They authorized the capturing of personal email passwords through keystroke logging software.

That potentially allowed them to log in to the whistleblowers’ personal email accounts and access emails that were never even accessed from a work computer.

Without a subpoena or warrant, that would be a criminal violation.

After six months, FDA finally denied that occurred.

However, that denial was based on the word of one unnamed information technology employee involved in the monitoring.

We need a more thorough investigation than that.

I have asked the FDA to make that person and several other witnesses available for interviews with my staff.

We will see how cooperative FDA plans to be now.

I will continue to press the FDA to open every window and every door.

Eventually enough sunlight on this agency will cleanse it.

FDA gets paid to protect the public, not keep us in the dark.

Secret monitoring programs, spying on Congress, and retaliating against whistleblowers—this is a sad commentary on the state of affairs at the FDA.

I know there are hard-working and principled rank and file employees at FDA who care very much about their mission to protect the American public from harm.

Unfortunately, all too often those rank and file employees are unfairly tarnished by others such as those involved in this spy ring.

This is a sad commentary on President Obama’s promise to the American people that this would be the most transparent Administration in history.

The American people can’t lose faith in the FDA.

Unfortunately, after this debacle, I think that I have.

FDA has a lot of work to do to restore the public’s trust.

-30-

 
Grassley asks about reports of Justice Department threat to a news reporter at a public meeting PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 14:47

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley has asked for a complete accounting of how the Department of Justice is responding to an incident last month in Louisiana where a senior civil rights lawyer for the department reportedly threatened a journalist about getting “on the Department of Justice’s bad side” if the reporter quoted the lawyer.  The alleged incident occurred at a meeting advertised as a public event to address concerns about employment practices of the local fire department.

 

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Grassley asked if the Department of Justice is conducting an investigation and if not, why not.  Grassley also asked for details about the Justice Department’s “special rules” for statements reportedly cited by the department lawyer at the meeting.  And, he asked for the justification and an explanation of the threat reportedly leveled by the department official if the reporter didn’t comply with orders about not quoting her.

 

Grassley said reports of the incident in New Iberia, Louisiana, including a complaint by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, are troubling and, if accurate, “confirm that there is a complete disconnect between the President’s words about transparency and the actual conduct of his Administration.”  Grassley referred to two memoranda issued by President Obama purportedly designed to usher in a “new era of open government” and to comments from White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew as recently as July 1, that the Obama Administration “has been the most transparent administration ever.”

 

Click here for Grassley’s July 17 letter to Holder.  Below is the text of the letter of inquiry.

 

July 17, 2012

 

Via Electronic Transmission

 

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.                           

Attorney General                       

U.S. Department of Justice                       

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.                          

Washington, DC 20530                         

 

Dear Attorney General Holder:

 

I write to express my concern about reports of an incident at a June 12, 2012 public meeting in New Iberia, Louisiana involving Rachel Hranitzky, a Senior Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division.[1] It is my understanding that a formal complaint about the incident has been sent to the Department of Justice.  I also understand that letters requesting information have been sent to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez by Senator David Vitter, Congressman Jeff Landry and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

 

The June 22, 2012 letter from the Reporters Committee summarized the reports on the incident as follows:

 

It is our understanding that on [June 12, 2012], Ms. Hranitzky arrived at the meeting and immediately asked if any journalists were present. When a Daily Iberian reporter attending the meeting responded in the affirmative, she informed him that he could neither record the meeting nor quote her statements. According to other attendees, the meeting had been advertised as a public meeting intended to address concerns with the city fire department’s hiring and promotion process.  However, citing ‘special rules’ of the Department of Justice for agency attorneys, Ms. Hranitzky instructed that her statements be neither recorded nor quoted. When the reporter questioned this instruction on the basis that Ms. Hranitzky was speaking at a public meeting, she apparently threatened him with the possibility that the DOJ could call his editors and publisher, and warned that he would not ‘want to get on the Department of Justice’s bad side.’ Furthermore, it is our understanding that Ms. Hranitzky demanded the reporter leave the meeting, although—after making his objection known but agreeing not to quote her—he was ultimately allowed to remain.

 

According to one report on the incident, Ms. Hranitzky “`grew belligerent and threatening’” while speaking with the reporter.[2] After the meeting, she apparently told the reporter that she had been quoted in the past and gotten in trouble with the DOJ.[3] More specifically, Ms. Hranitzky told the reporter that the DOJ “`keeps a short leash on how their attorneys are quoted and she could get in big trouble if she were quoted in a newspaper.’”[4]

 

As you are well aware, on his first full day in office, President Obama declared openness and transparency to be touchstones of his administration, and ordered agencies to make it easier for the public to get information about the government.  Specifically, he issued two memoranda written in grand language and purportedly designed to usher in a “new era of open government.”[5] As recently as July 1, the White House Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, told a television audience that the Obama Administration “has been the most transparent administration ever.”[6]

 

The reports about the incident in New Iberia and the existence of a DOJ policy or “special rules” which were the cause of the incident, are troubling.  If accurate, the reports further confirm that there is a complete disconnect between the President’s words about transparency and the actual conduct of his Administration.

Transparency and open government must be more than just pleasant sounding words found in memos and sound bites in television interviews.  They are essential to the functioning of a democratic government.  Moreover, if the reports about the incident and the existence of a DOJ policy or DOJ “special rules” are accurate, it would amount to a raw abuse of power and a complete disregard for the First Amendment and state open meetings laws.

I am seriously concerned about the reports regarding the incident in New Iberia.  Accordingly, please respond to the following questions and requests for information:

1.            Is the DOJ, or the DOJ Inspector General, conducting an investigation of the incident in New Iberia?

 

2.            If the DOJ is conducting an investigation, identify who is conducting it and describe in detail the scope of the investigation.  If the investigation is being conducted by members of the Civil Rights Division, explain how they do not have a conflict of interest.  If the DOJ is not conducting an investigation, explain why no investigation has been commenced.

 

3.            If the DOJ is conducting an investigation, provide a copy of the final report from that investigation when it is completed.

 

4.            Set forth in detail the DOJ’s version of the events that took place at the public meeting in New Iberia.

 

5.            If the reports are accurate and Ms. Hranitzky told the reporter that he could not quote anything she said at the public meeting, provide a citation to the legal authority justifying that statement.  If there is no legal authority supporting the statement, expressly acknowledge that fact.

 

6.            Does the DOJ have a policy or “special rules,” written or unwritten, regarding the recording or quotation of statements made by its employees at public meetings?  If there is a written policy or written rules, provide a copy.  If there is an unwritten policy or unwritten rules, describe the policy or rules in detail.

 

7.            If the DOJ has a policy or “special rules,” written or unwritten, regarding the recording or quotation of statements made by its employees at public meetings, identify: (a) when that policy or those rules were initiated, (b) who is the author of the policy or rules and (c) the rationale or justification for the adoption of the policy or rules.  Also, identify the legal authority supporting the existence of such a policy or such rules given the protections for freedom of speech and freedom of the press under the First Amendment.  If such analysis was previously conducted and is set forth in a document, provide a copy of that document.

 

8.            According to the reports, Ms. Hranitzky told the reporter that unless he complied with her orders about not quoting her, the DOJ might contact his editors or publisher and he would not want to get on the DOJ’s “bad side.”  Have DOJ employees been instructed to use or had it suggested to them that they could use the DOJ “bad side” statement or any other similar threat tactic when dealing with members of the media?  If so, set forth in detail (a) the circumstances under which the instructions or suggestions were made and (b) the justification for such an instruction or suggestion being given.

 

9.            Has the DOJ previously disciplined or reprimanded its employees, in any manner, whether officially or unofficially, if the statements they make at public meetings are quoted by the media?  If so, please explain in detail the circumstances under which such discipline has occurred and/or could occur.

 

10.        The reports on the incident in New Iberia referenced a DOJ policy or “special rules” related to employees’ interactions with members of the media and their speaking at public meetings.  Even if no official policy or rules exist, is the DOJ investigating whether any practices exist or whether orders have been given to DOJ employees by their supervisors about the employees’ interactions with members of the media and their speaking at public meetings.  If the DOJ is conducting an investigation, identify who is conducting it and describe in detail the scope of the investigation.  Also, if the DOJ is conducting an investigation, provide a copy of the final report from that investigation.  If the DOJ is not conducting an investigation, explain why no investigation has been commenced.

 

11.        If a DOJ employee speaks at a public meeting in his or her official capacity, is the reporting on or recording of the employee’s statements subject to state open meetings laws, such as the one that exists in Louisiana?  If not, explain why you maintain that the statements are not subject to open meetings laws.  Also, if not, identify what laws or rules, the DOJ is subject to or follows in connection with the recording of a public meeting at which a DOJ employee speaks in his or her official capacity.  If your answer includes a reference to internal DOJ rules, provide a copy.

 

12.        Was the meeting in New Iberia subject to Louisiana’s open meetings law?  If you maintain that it was not, explain your response in detail.

 

13.        Since the publication of the reports on the incident in New Iberia, have DOJ employees been given any instructions or training on how they are to interact with individuals, including members of the media, attending public meetings?  If so, and if those instructions or that training was in written format, provide a copy.  If so, and if the instructions or training was not in written format, describe it in detail.  If there have not been any instructions or training given, explain why that is so.

 

14.        Since 2007, has the DOJ received any complaints, whether informal or formal, regarding statements or conduct by its employees at a public meeting, proceeding or event similar to Ms. Hranitzky’s reported statements and conduct in  New Iberia?  If so, identify each such incident in detail.  For each such incident, provide a copy of the written complaint or report that the DOJ received and a copy of any written response by the DOJ.

 

15.        Provide copies of all written responses by the DOJ to any inquiries, letters or complaints about the incident at the meeting in New Iberia.

 

16.        Provide copies of the notices or advertisements for the meeting in New Iberia.

 

17.        Provide copies of any public statements or comments made by the DOJ on the incident at the meeting in New Iberia.

 

18.        Identify the case or cases which were the subject of the meeting in New Iberia, including the case name(s) and docket number(s).

 

19.        Provide a copy of the ruling or consent decree issued in the case or cases which were the subject of the meeting in New Iberia.

 

20.        Provide copies of any written statements or comments issued by the DOJ regarding the case or cases which were the subject of the meeting in New Iberia.

 

21.        Provide copies of any written DOJ policy, directive or guidance regarding DOJ employees speaking with members of the media.

 

I ask that you provide written answers and documents by August 17, 2012.

 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

 

Cc: Hon. Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

 

 



[1] Matthew Beaton, “`DOJ practice’ slammed by politicos, group,” The Daily Iberian  (July 8, 2012) (available at http://www.iberianet.com/news/doj-practice-slammed-by-politicos-group/article_32a8d028-c8b7-11e1-aa3d-0019bb2963f4.html).

[2] Matthew Volkov, “Civil Rights Division Lawyer Under Fire for Threatening Reporter at Public Hearing,”  Mainjustice.Com (July 9, 2012) (available at http://www.mainjustice.com/2012/07/09/civil-rights-division-lawyer-under-fire-for-threatening-reporter-at-public-hearing/print/).

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Memorandum from President Barak Obama Re: Freedom of Information Act (Jan. 21, 2009) (available at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/freedom-information-act); Memorandum from President Barak Obama Re: Transparency and Open Government (Jan. 21, 2009) (available at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/transparency-and-open-government).

[6] Josh Feldman, “Candy Crowley Calls Out President Obama For Executive Privilege Hypocrisy On Fast & Furious,” Mediaite.com (July 1, 2012) (available at http://www.mediaite.com/tv/candy-crowley-calls-out-president-obama-for-executive-privilege-hypocrisy-on-fast-furious/).

 
FDA spying on whistleblowers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 14:36

Grassley shines spotlight on FDA spying on whistleblowers

Senator demands accountability for effort to muzzle public safety concerns

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley is keeping the pressure on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fully account for its aggressive campaign to spy on protected, personal email messages of agency employees and then retaliate against them after they raised concerns to Congress about the safety of drugs and devices approved by the FDA.

“What the FDA has done has serious implications for the right of federal employees to make valuable protected disclosures about waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or public safety to Congress or anyone else.  This kind of communication is protected for good reason,” Grassley said.  “The FDA’s crusade contradicts the pledge the current commissioner made to create a culture that values whistleblowers, and the scope and tone of the surveillance effort reveals an agency more concerned about protecting itself than protecting the public, which ironically is the agency’s mission.”

Grassley said the internal documents that the FDA never wanted the public to see make the FDA “sound more like the East German Stasi than a consumer protection agency in a free country.”  The documents refer to whistleblowers as “collaborators,” congressional staff as “ancillary actors,” and newspaper reporters as “media outlet actors.”

In a lengthy letter to the FDA Commissioner yesterday, Grassley revealed that the spying was “explicitly authorized, in writing” by the FDA counsel’s office and called on Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to stop stonewalling requests for information about the surveillance effort.  Grassley began his investigation of this effort in January in response to whistleblower allegations.  He received no response, despite promises to the contrary, until last Friday night (plus attachment), on the eve of a New York Times story about 80,000 pages of internal FDA documents that the FDA’s contractor had posted on the Internet, apparently by accident.

Grassley said the FDA’s contention that employees were free to communicate is “ludricrous” because documents indicate the agency was specifically targeting whistleblowers who were subsequently fired or had their contract lapse.  In addition, repeated investigations by the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services did not substantiate FDA accusations that confidential information was leaked to the press, which the FDA has tried to say in order to justify its actions.

Also yesterday, Grassley asked the FDA contractor, Quality Associates, for an accounting of how the information ended up on the Internet and about how many other federal government agencies it has contracts with and the size and scope of those contracts.

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