A group of experienced Capitol Hill investigators and whistleblowing experts are banding together to fight government and corporate corruption with the creation of a new oversight organization dedicated to giving Americans a “check on unelected bureaucrats and corporate elites.”
“The main thing that we want to do is to become a resource for people who have inside information about waste, fraud, and abuse or corruption or mismanagement,” Empower Oversight founder and President Jason Foster told The Federalist.
Foster, one of the three former staffers from Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office who are in leadership at Empower, has more than two decades of experience working with whistleblowers on Capitol Hill. Foster’s efforts to create the Senate’s bipartisan Whistleblower Protection Caucus and act on other oversight legislation along with the experience of former whistleblowers who advise the new organization, he says, will help future informants “navigate all the pitfalls that come with trying to report to the inspector general, going to Congress, dealing with the press.”
“This is stuff that all the folks on our team have done for years and years, and our whistleblowers have done it successfully and have survived,” Foster pointed out. “Either they have avoided being fired, or after they suffered the consequences of blowing the whistle, they’ve landed on their feet and they’ve survived and thrived. A lot of times people talk about whistleblowing is like the end of your career — and it’s certainly a risky thing to do — but one of the things I hope is that people will see the folks that are helping out with this organization and see that you can actually blow the whistle successfully and survive. And not just survive, but go on to bigger and better things.”
Using a secure online process, Empower will provide a space for bureaucrats and employees to report shady activity in their agencies and by their employers for further investigation. From there, the oversight organization, which received multiple ripe tips from insiders hoping to unveil taxpayer-funded misconduct on its launch day, will conduct further independent investigation.
“There’s the research portion and the traditional oversight portion of the work that any kind of watchdog group would do, so we’ll be doing FOIA requests and we’ll be doing traditional, you know, watchdog group-type things: sending letters or filing complaints when appropriate,” Foster explained. “But our focus is we think it’s much better when you have inside sources helping you do that. You can be much more effective.”
The group won’t just focus on government oversight and investigation. In addition to providing help so “insiders document and report corruption to the proper authorities while also seeking to hold authorities accountable to act on those reports,” Empower will also conduct investigations in corporations.
“We’re not limiting ourselves to government waste, fraud, and abuse because there’s plenty of corporate fraud and malfeasance going on as well,” Foster explained.
This broad hunger for corruption investigation paired with the group’s long and successful track record in the oversight industry, Foster said, sets Empower apart from the dozens of other whistleblowing organizations and addresses a desperate need for more independent research.
“There’s there’s plenty of waste, fraud, abuse to go around in all sorts of areas,” he said. “It’s a target-rich environment.”
Empower, Foster said, can also shed light on this industry that is tainted by partisanship and potentially save the whistleblower’s reputation.
“I think there was a bit of poisoning of the well about whistleblowing where it’s been used for partisan purposes or when it’s become part of a partisan attack. And if you’re using whistleblowing rhetoric to sort of manufacture a partisan narrative to attack the elected leaders of the opposite party, it just undermines the broad support for the concept that was flowing,” he explained. “The media was using whistleblowing as a narrative, as a person, as part of building their narrative that they wanted to build. I think it undermined for a large, large portion of the country out there who may not have followed these issues … that’s their first introduction to what a whistleblower is.”
“It’s the vast unelected bureaucracy out there that needs exposure and that doesn’t get as much attention as when there’s an elected official involved,” Foster concluded.