For Immediate Release
Obama’s Hardest Promise: Protecting Workers Who Blow The Whistle
WASHINGTON - Senator Barack Obama won the presidential election this week running as the candidate for change. The change he promised included bringing transparency and accountability back into the federal government.
During the past year, we have watched President-Elect Obama use his persuasive oratory to change the American political landscape. His oratory included strong public commitments to ensure effective government oversight and whistleblower protection. Workers desperately need a strong national whistleblower protection act. The recent authorization of 700 billion dollars to bail out Wall Street made the need to protect whistleblowers even more urgent.
As President-Elect Obama prepares to announce his appointees, he has the chance to make immediate meaningful change a reality. There are many presidential appointments that have a direct impact on workers who blow the whistle on fraud and corruption. Such positions include key appointees within the Department of Justice who oversee billions of dollars worth of contractor fraud cases.
There are also relatively unknown positions that have tremendous impact on the lives and careers of thousands of whistleblowers. For example, the Department of Labor's Administrative Review Board decides federal environmental, consumer safety and Sarbanes-Oxley Act whistleblower cases. Likewise, the Special Counsel has responsibility for protecting federal employees who expose waste fraud and corruption within the federal bureaucracy.
Both the Administrative Review Board and the Office of Special Counsel lost credibility and failed in their missions because of poor appointments by the previous administration. For example, mismanagement by the Bush-appointed Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch was so appalling that the FBI raided his home and office. Even President Bush was forced to fire him two weeks before the election.
The Office of Special Counsel is supposed to protect the public trust by shielding whistleblowers. President-Elect Obama must ensure that an experienced and competent advocate for whistleblowers is appointed as Special Counsel. He must force the Office of Special Counsel to fulfill its mandate to protect whistleblowers.
President-Elect Obama has a unique opportunity to bring change in these crucial areas that will protect workers with the courage and integrity to tell the truth. That's the change we believe in. That is the change we hope and expect President-Elect Obama will bring to the federal government.
Stephen M. Kohn
President, National Whistleblowers Center