Who should be holding whom accountable?

 By Dan Epstein  July 12, 2013

Inspectors General, who hold federal agencies accountable by conducting audits and, when needed, investigating alleged misconduct, are in place to provide oversight over how taxpayer funded federal agencies are operating. But what happens if the inspectors are allegedly conducting the misconduct?

A case in point is the recent investigation involving Department of Homeland Security (DHS) DeputyInspector General Charles Edwards and allegations of his misconduct and abuse. Senators McCaskill and Johnson share similar concerns to those of Cause of Action that have been brought forward by insiders at DHS. These concerns range from wasteful spending to the destruction of federal records, which is a criminal offense. We have already begun releasing documents we have obtained and are committed to exposing the truth about Edwards and his office.

But everyday Americans aren’t always afforded the time and resources to uncover the facts about government employees such as Edwards. That’s why, as a government watchdog group, Cause of Action is committed to exposing the overreach and cronyism fueling the federal government’s waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars. As a result of our own investigation and information from insiders familiar with the DHS OIG office, Cause of Action sent a letter to President Obama on July 1 requesting that the President remove Edwards from his position. Edwards has failed to honestly and appropriately conduct investigations, manage subordinates, and has potentially misused public resources.

Cause of Action exposes these types of government accountability issues because Americans have the right to know how their government spends their hard earned money. We are rooted in the belief that regardless of party affiliation, we all deserve an efficient, effective government that protects our best interests rather than an ulterior political or personal agenda. Cause of Action concentrates on the decisions and rule making that may go unchecked at federal agencies.

Our staff of investigators, lawyers, and communications professionals frequently uses Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to shed light on otherwise opaque facets of the federal government. We also seek to utilize valid tips from government employees who have noticed the misuse of taxpayer resources.

Our recent accountability work included a report on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) grant program revealing seven grant recipients who allegedly used federal funds to illegally lobby for tobacco taxes, clean air ordinances, and bans on sugar-sweetened drinks.

Our work doesn’t stop at exposing misuses of power; we fight to hold officials accountable through litigation and public education. Our litigation and investigations are tactical, covering a spectrum of issues and targets that are part of our greater mission to educate the public on how the government exercises its unchecked power.

By employing the checks and balances our government provides, whether through the courts or through Congressional investigations, our aim is to bring real public change through our investigations and litigation. We remain committed to shedding light on the discretionary power of unelected officials who spend our dollars and regulate our sources of livelihood.

Epstein is executive director of Cause of Action, a non-profit, nonpartisan government accountability organization.