Incredibly, the federal government has won its civil lawsuit against POGO — the Project on Government Oversight — alleging that the group unjustly and illegally enriched government employees by sharing a monetary award with them. The two government employees who received the money were whistleblowers who revealed that the big oil companies were not paying money owed to the government for drilling on public lands.
The employees could have joined in POGO’s suit under the False Claims Act — a type of "private attorney general" or qui tam action that has been around in the U.S. since colonial times — and received a bigger chunk of the eventual settlement. And it was a big settlement — Mobil settled for $45 million in 1998, and eventual settlements from all oil companies reached $440 million, according to POGO. POGO received $1.2 million of the initial settlement, and shared an unspecified portion of it with the two whistleblowers.
The federal case, along with other subpoenas and threats of contempt sanctions from the government, make it hard to believe this was anything other than retaliation for effective, independent oversight of how the government does its job. POGO deserves to get this case thrown out on appeal.