Whistleblower protection is sometimes portrayed as a liberal issue. That is absolutely untrue. It was Abraham Lincoln who enacted the first whistleblower laws to stop defense contractors from stealing in the Civil War. Later, Ronald Reagan modernized Whistleblower protection as part of his war on "waste, fraud and abuse" of federal taxpayers.
Some of the blue-chip conservatives championing Whistleblower Protection include Senator Grassley. This is a bipartisan effort. Conservatives hate waste and fraud, and liberals want to protect the safety net. Whistleblower protection is the one issue that people of integrity can all agree on.
Yesterday, a number of Conservative groups sent the following letter to Congress. There is now no excuse. Both presidential candidates and both parties need to embrace Whistleblower Protection as one of the most important issues of the day. With the huge bailout of financial systems coming, we must insist that whistleblowers be protected to avoid future disasters, and to ensure the huge amounts of public moneys will be spent wisely and legally.
An Open Letter to the U.S. Congress from Conservative Organizations:
Whistleblower Protection is Taxpayer Protection!
We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of Americans who support lower taxes and limited government, urge you to send reconciled legislation restoring Congress’s intent behind the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) to the President’s desk before the House and Senate adjourn this year.
Whistleblowers have historically made valuable contributions to the cause of overburdened taxpayers, from uncovering improper subsidy payments to identifying abuses of power at the Internal Revenue Service. Unfortunately, at a time when America most urgently needs the best value for every dollar Washington spends, these victories for taxpayers are likely to be rarer. Despite the fact that whistleblower protection statutes were unanimously enacted in 1989 and 1994, a series of hostile court rulings has effectively gutted these laws and left employees fearful of coming forward.
As who have long expressed concerns over the encroachment of the judicial branch on lawmaking powers, we know of few more powerful illustrations of the problem than the courts’ depredations upon the letter and spirit of the WPA. Since 1994, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against whistleblowers on the merits in 203 out of 205 decisions.
Both the Government Accountability Office and the Inspectors General have key roles in rooting out wasted taxpayer money, but even these dedicated agencies are not often able to report fiscal foul-ups as they are happening. Whistleblowers, who witness on a daily basis the malfunctioning machinery of government, are best suited to such a task. Yet understandably, few of them wish to martyr their families in doing so.
H.R. 985 and S. 274, which overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate, respectively, would help to shield whistle-blowing employees from retaliation when they provide credible information about waste, fraud, and abuse. Reforms include the right to a jury trial, safeguards for workers with federal contractors, and repeal of the Federal Circuit’s destructive monopoly on precedent-setting decisions in whistleblower cases.
We are aware of objections to these bills from the Administration and others, who fear the implications they would have for national security or for human resources procedures. These arguments, however, are unpersuasive. Nothing in H.R. 985 and S. 274 would permit classified information in whistleblower cases to be made public. Furthermore, a robust whistleblower process would allow more substantive fiscal mismanagement complaints to be heard, as opposed to “grievance mills” (such as the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and the Federal Labor Relations Board) that disgruntled federal employees often abuse.
Those institutions must be reformed as well.
Congress would be doing a disservice to taxpayer advocates if it were to start from scratch on WPA next year. Largely technical matters now remain, which can be resolved if the Leadership makes a conference over H.R. 985 and S. 274 a priority. This is why the rank-and-file must communicate support for such a conference with all urgency. Once again, we implore all Members of Congress to support and vote for legislation to re-invigorate the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Vice President for Policy and Communications
National Taxpayers Union
Michael D. Ostrolenk
American Conservative Defense Alliance
Competitive Enterprise Institute
American Policy Center
Chief of Staff
Americans for Tax Reform
Arizona Eagle Forum
Vice President for Policy
Citizen Outreach Project
Dane Von Breichenruchardt
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation