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Representatives Todd Platts (R-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) are sponsoring an amendment to the $825 billion stimulus bill facing imminent congressional votes.  This amendment is necessary to restore a credible Whistleblower Protection Act for federal workers, who will have the first-line responsibility for keeping stimulus spending honest.  

Last year, Congress spent $700 billion, and said it would later provide accountability structures such as whistleblower protection.  Soon the money will all be spent, and federal employees still proceed at their own risk if they try to keep the spending honest.

Without best practices whistleblower rights in the next $825 billion stimulus bill, it could become a blank check for fraud, waste and abuse. This time Congress needs to enact whistleblower rights BEFORE the taxpayers’ money is spent. There must be no more government spending without accountability.  By supporting the Van Hollen-Platts amendment, Congress would be protecting not only whistleblowers, but all taxpayers.

Last evening, the House Rules Committee accepted an amendment to H.R. 1, offered by Representatives Van Hollen and Platts, which  would establish effective whistleblower rights for federal employees.  The amendment sets a new  standard for accountability through transparency by empowering federal employees to call attention to waste, fraud, and abuse of tax dollars without fear of retaliation. This afternoon a vote is scheduled and I seriously hope House Members will pass the Van Hollen-Platts amendment.  

The language of the amendment is identical to last Congress’ H.R. 985, which the House passed in 2007 by a 331-94 vote. (Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on H.R. 985 or on a similar Senate bill prior to adjournment of the 110th Congress.)

261 bipartisan citizen organizations and corporations, representing millions of Americans, have urged support for whistleblower rights for federal employees. This accountability reform is essential in HR 1, the pending stimulus legislation.

The current federal whistleblower law is woefully inadequate to keep whistleblowers safe from retaliation; to the contrary, it actually intensifies secrecy by serving as a rubber-stamp for retaliation. To illustrate, since 1994 the track record on decisions on the merits at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (which is the only court that can review such cases), is 3-206 against whistleblowers.

Whistleblowers challenge abuses of power that betray the public trust. As the public’s eyes and ears, they are the Achilles’ heel of bureaucratic corruption sustained by secrecy.  Indeed, whistleblowers protect the integrity of all federal spending, whether the issue is a financial bailout of the banking or auto industry, fraud at Wall Street firms, prescription drug safety, environmental protection, infrastructure spending, national health care, homeland security, national defense or foreign policy. Wisely, the Van Hollen-Platts amendment protects all taxpayer-financed federal employees and contractor employers who challenge any misspending. Its benefits will continue long after stimulus spending ends.

UPDATE: The House approved whistleblower protections as part of stimulus bill.  Thank you everybody!!

Originally posted to Jesselyn Radack on Wed Jan 28, 2009 at 07:02 AM PST.

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