Three “whistleblowers” who were awarded millions after suing their employers for cheating the federal government flew to Iowa today to endorse Senator Chuck Grassley’s bid for reelection.
Sal Barbera a Florida hospital for a “kick-back” scheme that resulted in the hospital repaying $23.5 million — and Barbera was paid a percentage of that. “Now none of this would have been possible for me and this money would not have been recovered if it wasn’t for The False Claims Act and Senator Grassley who has been relentless and very, very persistent in protecting the rights of whistleblowers,” Barbera said.
Jim Alderson was fired when he refused to file his hospital’s inflated claims to Medicare. Without mentioning her by name, Alderson criticized Grassley’s Democratic opponent, Roxanne Conlin, for saying Grassley is too quick to side with “big business” and Wall Street. “That’s one falsehood that, hopefully, my trip out here from Montana will clear up,” Alderson said.
Tina Gonter of Florida choked up as she spoke about wearing a wire to record conversations and catch her employer’s scheme to make faulty valves for the Navy’s nuclear submarines. “These days it seems like everything is about politics. This isn’t,” Gonter said of her trip to Iowa and her appearance at Grassley’s news conference. “Senator Grassley’s law is important to the country, and so is he.”
President Lincoln signed The Fair Claims Act during the Civil War and Grassley helped update the law in 1986. Under the legislation, whistleblowers are entitled to up to 30 percent of the damages a judge orders a private company to pay for bilking the government. “I don’t think we can get enough information out about The False Claims Act being a useful tool, originally the number one tool against defense fraud,” Grassley said. “And now it appears to be the number one tool against health care fraud.”
One of Grassley’s campaign commercials touts his work for whistleblowers, but Grassley hasn’t heard the ad. “When you have 10 of ’em and if it was running a month ago, I’m apt to forget. The only one I remember is everybody says, ‘Your wife does such a nice job.’ I’m just glad I’m not running against her, see?” Grassley said, laughing. “That’s the only commercial I ever hear about.”
None of the three whistleblowers who spoke at Grassley’s news conference are featured in the campaign commercial.
Paulee Lipsman, a spokesperson for Conlin’s campaign, issued a written statement this afternoon, mentioning tomorrow night’s Grassley-Conlin debate on WHO Radio rather than directly responding to the whistleblowers.
“As has been true throughout this campaign, Senator Grassley has surrounded himself with supporters and those who will not challenge his views,” Lipsman said. “With just one week to go, Roxanne Conlin will finally get the opportunity to debate him on job creation, social security, tax breaks for the wealthiest, and the influence of special interests in Washington. She looks forward to this chance to debate the issues most important to Iowans.”