by Irvin Muchnick
The rubber hits the road today for USA Swimming’s ramped-up $200,000 public relations campaign to give its beleaguered “safe sport” program mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The policy staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, under ranking minority member George Miller, a California Democrat, will be meeting with swimming safe sport director Susan Woessner and two staff lobbyists of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Congressman Miller himself will not be there because he is out of the country.
What should those of us looking for Congressional action on widespread swimming sexual abuse and cover-up expect out of this meeting? A few hints emerged in our conversations with sources close to the investigation.
First, these sources say, the committee has been surprised by some of USA Swimming’s recent tactics, which were designed to preempt Miller’s objective of delving deeper. Chief among those tactics was the commissioning of an “independent review” of Safe Sport just one week ago.
Education and the Workforce people were surprised — but not moved. “I can’t comment on the specifics of any current investigation,” one staffer told us. “But Congressman Miller’s past work on behalf of the committee Democrats has been exceedingly thorough, aggressive, and comprehensive. He has a deserved reputation for his efforts to protect children wherever they are, inside or outside the classroom.”
Beyond additional meetings with swimming officials — which our sources say there will surely be — Miller has several options. As a member of the minority party in the House, he cannot independently convene an open Congressional hearing. He can, however, ask the Republican chair, John Kline of Minnesota, to do so.
Another possibility being contemplated by Congressman Miller is one or more “field hearings” on the road — platforms for victims to talk about their experiences with abuse by coaches and inaction by USA Swimming in the face of known information and complaints.
In sum, today’s event — well publicized but behind closed doors — is only the beginning.