Renowned Oversight Expert Criticizes Interference with Russia Investigation

In an op-ed for The Hill, former National Whistleblower Center (NWC) executive director and widely regarded oversight expert Kris Kolesnik takes members of Congress to task for blurring the lines between campaigning and governing.

Kolesnik, also a former high-level staffer for Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), states, “people who come to Congress need to understand that, once you get here, you’re obliged to govern. The campaigning is over.” Given Kolesnik’s record, when he speaks on important oversight issues, all should listen.

Kolesnik points to his own experience while working for Senator Grassley to explain how effective government oversight should be conducted. He and Grassley stood strong against wasteful defense spending in the 1980s. They exposed everything from “over-priced toilet seats and hammers” to demonstrate how much money was being squandered. This exposure of government waste resulted in the enactment of a number of vital safeguards, including the 1986 amendments to the False Claim Act and the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act. These laws shield whistleblowers from retaliation and empower them to come forward with cases of contracting fraud and squandering of federal funds. The results are clear: last year, $3.4 billion of the $3.7 billion collected by the Department of Justice from the False Claims Act stemmed from whistleblower cases.

Current NWC Executive Director Steve Kohn explains that “NWC hired Kris Kolesnik because his oversight skills were second to none. His work with Senator Grassley was legendary; he was always honest, forthright, and sought bipartisan support for his work. He has no bias except for accountability. And anyone who says he wants to cover up for the FBI should remember that he led investigations into the bureau over the strenuous objections of Republican colleagues.”

NWC has followed the unfolding Russia investigations and reiterates that Kolesnik’s warnings about the need for “a wall” between politics and governance should be heeded. Last week NWC sent out an action alert asking Americans to demand that President Trump and Congress make a firm, public statement that they will protect whistleblowers from retaliation in the Russia investigation. Former FBI Director James Comey, among many others across the political spectrum, has highlighted the importance of whistleblowers for uncovering misconduct and illegal behavior.

For good governance to reign, respected oversight experts should be shepherding investigations and political showmanship must be put aside.