Politics
AP Photo AP Photo  

McCaskill won’t acknowledge husband’s former employee as ‘whistle-blower,’ also won’t define term

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s re-election campaign told The Daily Caller that a former employee of her husband who told Republican operatives about his questionable business practices doesn’t qualify as a “whistle-blower.”

But when TheDC pressed for a definition of the word, a campaign spokeswoman refused to provide one.

Craig Woods, a former employee of McCaskill’s husband Joseph Shepard, alleged in an audiotaped statement in 2001 that Shepard used the U.S. Senate dining room to cut business deals selling tax credits tied to stimulus money. TheDC exclusively obtained that audio recording (RELATED: Whistle-blower audio: Sen. Claire McCaskill’s husband cut business deals in Senate Dining Room)

“Craig Woods is not a whistleblower,” McCaskill spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki said in an email to TheDC on Friday. “He is a convicted felon who has lied repeatedly about his employment history just like he’s doing now.”

Woods was a longtime high-ranking official in Shepard’s business empire, serving first as chief financial officer and then as vice president and chief underwriter for Missouri Equity Investors LLC and JA Shepard Companies.

According to the McCaskill campaign, Woods pleaded guilty in the 1990s in two different cases of felony larceny and spent time in prison.

The campaign also said Woods lied about his past on his job application and submitted a resume detailing “jobs” he held while he was actually serving time behind bars.

Over the course of several hours of communications with TheDC and given multiple opportunities to answer, Legacki refused to define “whistle-blower.” Legacki also refused to answer whether Sen. McCaskill believes someone with a criminal record should be automatically disqualified as a whistle-blower.

Instead, Legacki accused TheDC of “publishing a hit job.”

“You have very detailed information about the extent to which he has previously lied about his felony and his previous employment,” Legacki said. “It’s entirely relevant because he is lying once again about his previous employment. Additionally, he is making baseless claims about conversations of which he has no firsthand knowledge. He has not provided you with any evidence that any of this ever occurred, primarily because it didn’t happen.”

McCaskill’s attacks on Woods’ reputation appear to be a contradiction of her longstanding public defense of whistle-blowers. In October 2009 The Washington Times reported that she said “[w]histleblowers are our first line of defense against waste, fraud, and abuse.”

“We’ve got to do everything possible to protect them,” McCaskill said then.

“Whistle-blowers who raise the alarm about waste, fraud, and abuse should be commended — not punished,” McCaskill said in an April 26, 2012 press release. “Whistle-blowers are the unsung heroes of our fight to root out inappropriate and sometimes illegal behavior in government. This is a good step toward ensuring we’re protecting them from being punished for their work to protect taxpayer dollars.”

McCaskill has stood up for whistle-blowers with records of financial crimes in the past. In a March 4, 2009 hearing in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, McCaskill openly praised a financial criminal who was also a whistle-blower.

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Doug Shulman and his attorney confirmed to McCaskill during that hearing that Bradley Birkenfeld was a whistle-blower in an investigation that helped expose UBS for helping Americans evade taxes through the use of offshore bank accounts.

Birkenfeld collected $104 million for blowing the whistle on UBS, and McCaskill used her time in the hearing to tout him as an example to follow.

“I think it would be helpful if you could be more specific about what a whistle-blower could get,” she said of Birkenfeld. “This is a very public opportunity for whistle-blowers to realize that there is — as we would say at home — ‘money in them thar hills.’”

Birkenfeld served time in prison before becoming a whistle-blower. Bloomberg News reported that he “served 31 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and was released on Aug. 1 [2012].”

Follow Matthew on Twitter