Listen Ad-free

The Continuous Action

Walter Shaub

The Continuous Action explores the ongoing labor of democracy through conversations with those who do that work every day.

Join Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, as he talks with journalists, activists, government leaders, and philanthropists about their work — and what it takes to hold our government accountable to the people it serves.

The inspiration for the title “The Continuous Action” comes from the admonition by John Lewis that “freedom is not a state; it is an act.” Speaking of our duty as citizens, he proclaimed: “Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”

The Continuous Action is sponsored by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), hosted by Walt Shaub, and produced by Myron Kaplan.

Stay tuned on the latest from POGO:

Hosted on Acast. See for more information.

read less


The Authoritarian’s Fist
Apr 20 2023
The Authoritarian’s Fist
Imagine a world in which the president had unfettered power to use the massive federal workforce as a weapon against political rivals. In that scenario, federal officials would be forced to serve a political party’s interests instead of the public interest. Your access to federal benefits and services could be slowed or blocked depending on your declared political affiliation. That’s a world that former President Donald Trump tried to make a reality in the final days of his administration. Exploiting a statutory loophole, Trump issued an executive order in October 2020 that could have made tens of thousands of federal employees, maybe hundreds of thousands, fireable at will by political operatives. Public servants could have faced retaliation if they reported corruption or refused to follow unlawful orders. President Joe Biden rescinded the executive order before Trump could implement this new system. But the nation isn’t out of the woods. Congress has failed to close the loophole that made this plan possible. And now, there’s a movement to resurrect it and politicize the civil service. On this episode of The Continuous Action, Virginia Heffernan and Walt Shaub delve into the issue with Rudy Mehrbani, senior director for governance at the Democracy Fund and a former director of the White House’s Office of Presidential Personnel.For transcript and show notes, visit Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Anything Goes
Apr 13 2023
Anything Goes
Members of Congress write their own rules — and those rules allow stock trades galore!In this episode of The Continuous Action, host Walt Shaub dives into topic of congressional stock trading, outlining the problems with the practice and asking the question we’re all thinking: How is this legal? He’s joined by a member of Congress who’s leading a bipartisan coalition working to make sure it won’t stay legal for long. The fact is, there’s no way for us to know what our elected representatives learn in closed-door government briefings, or whether they’re profiting from that knowledge. But what we do know is that members of Congress and their immediate families are free to buy and sell stocks while they’re in office, and some of them are turning quite a profit.  Even if they’re all following the rules, the lack of adequate guardrails is enough to shake the public’s faith. And it has: at least one poll shows that more than 70% of voters favor banning congressional stock trading.  To learn more, Walt talks with Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) about the quest to ban congressional stock trading. Spanberger leads a bipartisan coalition of members, including Representative Chip Roy (R-TX), which is fighting to put a congressional stock trading ban in place. They may not agree on much else, but these dozens of members of Congress agree that time has come to stop the trades. For transcript and show notes, visit ** Special thanks to Caroline Kenney and Jason Linkins, whose voices appear at the top of this episode. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Banned from Office!
Apr 6 2023
Banned from Office!
Is Donald Trump constitutionally disqualified from running for president?   In this episode of The Continuous Action, Walt Shaub and Virginia Heffernan examine a provision of the Constitution that bans insurrectionists from holding public office. The “disqualification clause” was ratified with the rest of the 14th Amendment just after the Civil War, and it hadn’t been used in the last hundred years — until a recent court case.  In 2022, a group of New Mexico citizens filed a suit alleging that a local county commissioner who was involved in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol should be disqualified from holding office. A state judge agreed, finding that the commissioner’s actions on January 6 qualified as having “engaged in … insurrection.” The judge banned him from ever holding office again.   To learn more about the case, and what it might mean for others involved in the events of January 6, Virginia and Walt talk to POGO’s own Liz Hempowicz, who co-authored a report on applications of the disqualification clause. They also catch up with one of the lawyers who tried the Griffin case, Donald Sherman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.   Listen in to learn more about how this important part of the 14th Amendment works, who it might affect, what happened in the New Mexico case, and what’s coming next for candidate Trump. For transcript and show notes, visit Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
The Eyes On Your Face
May 6 2022
The Eyes On Your Face
In Episode 3, hosts Walt Shaub and Virginia Heffernan grapple with government surveillance, focusing in particular on facial recognition technology and the ways that the government could — and already does — abuse this pervasive technology. Facial recognition expert Jake Laperruque describes the arms race between technology companies developing new software to be used by law enforcement on one side, and lawmakers and privacy advocates working to regulate this fast-developing technology on the other. Framing privacy as a human rights issue, Laperruque reminds us of the abuses of the post-9/11 era, when the government carried out indiscriminate surveillance of Muslim communities.  In our next interview, we step back and look more broadly at how targeted surveillance of all types can harm vulnerable populations, a problem that technology like facial recognition software exacerbates. Law professor and former prosecutor Paul Butler explains how the Supreme Court has unleashed the forces of control on minority populations. Finally, Maya Wang, the senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch, paints a picture of the future we must avoid. As always, the show concludes with ideas about the actions listeners can take to help address these wrongs. This episode features some good news, as the hosts break down a recent victory by privacy advocates that forced the IRS to back off a plan that would have force some Americans to use problematic facial ID tech to access their tax records.The Continuous Action is sponsored by The Project On Government Oversight. Stay tuned on the latest from POGO: show notes, visit:  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.