Before being elected to the U.S. Senate, Claire worked as a courtroom prosecutor in Kansas City, served as Jackson County Prosecutor, and was the state’s top government watchdog as Missouri State Auditor. And fighting to strengthen accountability in government is a Missouri value that she brought with her to the Senate. Now in her second term, Claire is a nationally recognized advocate for oversight and transparency as a means of restoring Americans’ confidence in their federal government - in the mold of Missouri’s Harry Truman, whose Senate seat Claire now holds.
As one of her first actions as Senator, Claire helped pass into law the most sweeping ethics reforms since Watergate. She waged a successful six-year battle to rein in wasteful wartime contracting practices in Iraq and Afghanistan - modeled on Truman’s famous battle against war profiteering. A champion for transparency, Claire took the historic step of holding her portion of the annual defense bill mark-up in open, public session, and called for the full Armed Services Committee to do the same. She became the leading Senate Democratic opponent of Congressional earmarks, and of the practice known as “secret holds,” eventually helping to pass a resolution that required any member objecting to the consideration of legislation or a nominee be disclosed in the Congressional Record.
Claire was eventually named Chairman of a new Senate oversight panel, leading more than 20 hearings, and launching more than 40 investigations at 22 federal departments and agencies, resulting in nearly 30 instances of misconduct referred to federal investigators. Following her reelection in 2012, Claire’s oversight subcommittee was expanded and charged with protecting taxpayer dollars and investigating waste, fraud, and abuse at every federal agency. And in 2015, Claire was named the top-ranking Democrat on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations - the Senate’s leading oversight panel, and formerly, the Truman Committee.
Cracking Down on Contracting Abuses
Believing that the federal government was squandering huge sums of taxpayer money in overseas contracts, Claire made good on a campaign pledge and waged a successful six-year effort to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse in wartime contracting.
Working alongside former Navy Secretary and Virginia Senator Jim Webb, she established a Commission on Wartime Contracting - a bipartisan commission seeking to ferret out contracting waste. Modeled after the “Truman Committee” which investigated waste and fraud during World War II, the Commission spent three years investigating contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In its final report to Congress, the panel estimated that the U.S. had squandered up to $60 billion through contract waste and fraud and identified major failures in contingency contracting planning, execution, and oversight.
Acting on the Commission’s recommendations, Claire and Senator Webb introduced landmark legislation to overhaul the federal government’s planning, management, and oversight of contracting during overseas contingencies. The legislation elevated oversight responsibility, improved management, and expanded planning requirements, among other reforms. During the final hours of Claire's first Senate term - after months of building support in both the Senate and House - her signature legislation implementing historic wartime contracting reforms was signed into law.
In addition to wartime contracting reform, Claire has held federal officials accountable and investigated possible waste and misconduct in contracts involving: security clearance background checks, embassy security, counternarcotics, sports marketing and sponsorships, bio-terrorism research, the Pentagon’s POW/MIA recovery effort, federal food services, management at the U.S. Energy Department, overly-aggressive or illegal sales tactics by medical device companies, and overseas “rule of law” programs. And Claire introduced the Contracting and Tax Accountability Act, which would prohibit companies or individuals with seriously delinquent federal tax debts from receiving government grants or contracts.
Strengthening Independent Watchdogs
Claire has said that Inspectors General (IGs) “are the eyes and ears of taxpayers in each federal agency,” guarding against waste and misconduct. She has worked closely with IG offices across the government, has aggressively fought to protect their independence, has pressed the White House to keep such roles filled, has held IGs accountable when they fail in their responsibilities, and has introduced legislation to create an Inspector General to review spending by the U.S. Senate.
Early in her term, Claire successfully called for the resignation of the NASA IG following reports of ineffective audit records, stalled investigations, whistleblower retaliation, and improper social relationships with the NASA officials whose work he was overseeing. Claire later led investigations into failures on the part of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the Homeland Security Department’s Deputy Inspector General - reviews which ultimately helped lead to both officials’ removal from office.
Following reports that the new IG overseeing U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan had described efforts by other federal officials to interfere with his investigations Claire blasted such political pressure, and pledged to “bring this fight to every corner of the federal government” to protect the independence and integrity of offices of Inspectors General.
More recently, aiming to strengthen accountability over the National Security Agency (NSA), Claire led a bipartisan group of Senators introducing legislation to bolster the independence of the agency’s watchdog. Saying at the time, “I don’t know how you can be an independent watchdog if you owe your job to the head of the agency,” she introduced the NSA Internal Watchdog Act, which would make the position of the NSA Inspector General a Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed position, and give the IG subpoena power over employees who have left the agency and NSA contractors, among other reforms.
Claire believes that the ability of federal employees to come forward and “blow the whistle” on misconduct and waste of taxpayer dollars goes hand-in-hand with rooting out such abuse and restoring Americans’ confidence in their federal government. That’s why she has worked to strengthen protections for whistleblowers - including by introducing legislation to bolster the rights of contractor whistleblowers - so that such employees do not have to fear retaliation for coming forward.
Several of Claire’s investigations have begun with a whistleblower contacting her office to make a report about waste, fraud, or abuse (whistleblowers are encouraged to contact Claire’s office at: email@example.com). For instance, a top Labor Department official resigned after an IG investigation requested by Claire found that the official circumvented rules and regulations to secure government contracts for friends and colleagues. Claire requested the review after she was approached by a whistleblower who shared allegations of contracting fraud committed by senior officials in the Department.
Claire has called for expanded whistleblower protections for intelligence contractors. She also has introduced bipartisan legislation to bolster the independence of the National Security Agency’s Inspector General - in part by requiring the office to conduct annual reviews of whistleblower protections for agency employees and contractors, and provide recommendations to improve those mechanisms.
And in 2014, Claire hosted a roundtable discussion to hear from whistleblowers who were fired after raising safety concerns at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state, followed by a formal hearing on whistleblower retaliation. Claire has also called for swift action and requested additional information from the Office of Special Counsel on its investigation of whistleblower retaliation by Veterans Affairs employees.
Raising the Bar
Claire’s commitment to accountability and transparency is a personal one, and she has consistently demonstrated that commitment.
Over her time in the Senate, Claire has returned millions of dollars from her office budget to the Treasury.
And Claire has led the effort in Congress to repeal and end automatic pay raises for Senators and Representatives, introducing legislation that would stop automatic raises and instead, require Congress to vote proactively to increase its pay. Thanks in part to Claire’s efforts, members of Congress have not received a pay raise since 2010.