Post Editorial Misses Mark on Whistleblowers; Protections in Stimulus Bill Help Workers Hold Government Accountable

For Immediate Release

Government Oversight Groups
Contact: 

Adam Miles, GAP Legislative Representative
202.276.2007
adamm@whistleblower.org

Charity Wilson, American Federation of Government Employees
202.639.6440

Lindsey M. Williams, National Whistleblower Center
202.342.1903

Donna Lenhoff, National Employment Lawyers Association
202.898.2880

Contact: Marthena Cowart, Project on Government Oversight
202.347.3958

Angela Canterbury, Public Citizen
202.454.5188

Celia Wexler, Union of Concerned Scientists
202.390.5481

Michael Ostrolenk, Liberty Coalition
301.717.0599

Dina Long, National Treasury Employees Union
202.572.5500 ext. 7058

Patrice McDermott, OpenTheGovernment.org
202.332.6736

Dane vonBreichenruchard, US Bill of Rights Foundation
202.546.7079

Sean Moulton, OMB Watch
202.234.8494

Post Editorial Misses Mark on Whistleblowers; Protections in Stimulus Bill Help Workers Hold Government Accountable

A Joint Statement from GAP, American Federation of Government Employees, National Whistleblower Center, National Employment Lawyers Association, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, Liberty Coalition, National Treasury Employees Union, OpenTheGoverment.org, U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation, and OMB Watch

WASHINGTON - Monday's Washington
Post
editorial, "Wrong Way to Protect," did a disservice
to its readers and the taxpayers when it opposed provisions in the economic
stimulus bill that are designed to empower federal whistleblowers.

The editorial argues that the reform should be pursued
through ordinary legislative channels rather than included in the stimulus,
stating "This is not the way it's supposed to work."  This
is exactly how it is supposed to work: Federal whistleblower protection
legislation has had the benefit of hearings, and has been vetted in both
chambers for several years. This is not an extraneous measure, as the editorial
suggests. In both chambers, the original stimulus bills included whistleblower
protections for state and local employees. Members of the House had the good
sense to recognize that the massive stimulus package creates an urgent need for
federal employees, who are the taxpayers' first line of defense against
waste and fraud, to be given the same protections afforded state and local
employees. 

Congress has diligently built a record to strengthen
federal whistleblower protections through a robust legislative history (click here to see the
fact sheet
). Identical whistleblower protections overwhelmingly passed the
House as a stand-alone measure, 331-94, in 2007. Despite eight years of
hearings, committee meetings, mark-ups, and four House and Senate votes,
federal employees who expose waste, fraud and abuse remain vulnerable to
intimidation, reassignment and termination, with no effective means to fight
retaliation. Even so, whistleblowers each day risk their careers and come
forward with evidence of misconduct, much to the benefit of The Washington Post and other newspapers
that have earned prizes for their reporting on information whistleblowers
provided.

In addition, the editorial cites curious concerns
about disclosures of classified information (which could have been cleared
up with a careful reading of the text). There is nothing in the bill to
condone any "breach" - "unilateral" or otherwise.
However, after some members of Congress raised legitimate concerns about the
procedure for disclosure of classified information, the House managers
agreed on the floor to work together with the Intelligence Committee to
address those concerns. The members who raised the concerns were satisfied, and
voted for the whistleblower amendment. We too are confident that those issues
will be resolved. In fact, because the law will allow for only lawful
disclosures to those with the appropriate security clearances, it actually will
prevent leaks and so-called "breaches." 

But it is important to recognize the central purpose
behind protecting federal employees in the stimulus:  Taxpayers need their
help in detecting fraud and waste. The stimulus bill authorizes the expenditure
of billions of taxpayer dollars; as taxpayers, we need the best oversight
possible. Countless studies have verified that whistleblowers are the most
effective weapon against fraud. This includes recent statistics by the U.S.
Department of Justice, which announced that whistleblowers were responsible for
returning over $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury in 2008 alone. In addition,
PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently surveyed more than 5,000 corporations worldwide
and found that whistleblowers, by far, were the most effective means for the
initial detection of corporate fraud, besting internal auditors and law
enforcement. The editorial asserts that it is somehow
"disingenuous" to claim that whistleblowers will "enhance
accountability." But the evidence shows that there is no better means of
enhancing accountability. We believe there is no excuse to spend another $888
billion without first locking in this proven accountability safeguard. Lastly,
whistleblower protections, unlike every other provision in the stimulus, will
save money, not spend it.

If lawmakers reject these provisions, they will be
sending federal employees a very strong signal:  Keep your head down and
don't rock the boat. Employees know what happens to colleagues who step
forward and expose waste, fraud and abuse in government. Federal workers who
have reported wrongdoing have lost more than 98.5 percent of cases at the
Federal Circuit Court of Appeals since 1994, when Congress last unanimously
strengthened the law. During the entire Bush administration, the U.S. Merit
Systems Protection Board ruled only twice that the whistleblower law was
violated.

It's time to end the culture of secrecy and
guarantee that the federal workforce has our support in making sure our
stimulus dollars are spent honestly and effectively.

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