Legislators Want Better Whistleblower Protections, Forget To Include Their Own Staff Members

from the Ohhh,-THOSE-unprotected-government-employees dept

This administration hasn’t been big on protecting whistleblowers. It often talks about increasing transparency and accountability, but its actions have been the complete opposite. The same goes for the rest of the government. Agencies institute whistleblower protections, often in response to Inspector Generals’ reports detailing violations of existing policies, but still remain much more interested in nabbing “insider threats” than protecting whistleblowers from retaliation.

Various bills have been introduced to strengthen protections for whistleblowers. But, as Marcy Wheeler (writing for Expose Facts) points out, legislators fighting for whistleblowers are leaving behind a lot of people very close to them.

When Congress passes good governance laws — most notably FOIA — they tend to exempt themselves.

They’ve done the same with a series of Whistleblower Protection laws. While they’ve amended the Whistleblower Protection Act and added protections to employees in the private finance industry, they have not offered the same protections to their employees.

Sadly, this seems to be the case far too often. Lawmakers tend to write laws for other people. But accountability shouldn’t just apply to other entities. Congress needs whistleblowers just as much as the rest of the government does. In this case, however, it doesn’t appear to be intentional. It appears to be that some of these legislators are simply unaware they’re pushing for something they’ve already exempted themselves from having to follow.

Roll Call — a DC-focused new site — confronted some of the legislators who approved a resolution naming July 30th “Whistleblower Protection Day” about the unprotected potential whistleblowers working for them.

Asked about the [Whistleblower Protection Caucus] report, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the caucus’s founders, said federal workers are protected. When informed about the OOC report that stated protections did not extend to legislative branch workers, Grassley said, “We’ll take a look at it.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., another of the caucus’s founding members, was shocked to learn congressional employees are not protected.

“They should [be protected],” McCaskill said. “I’ll go right back to the office and say, ‘Draft that legislation!’”

“Whistleblowers should be allowed to operate and have protections everywhere in our government,” McCaskill added. “Everywhere.”

Hindsight has been adjusted to roughly 20/20, give or take an ongoing blindspot. Now, instead of congratulating themselves on crafting healthier whistleblower protections while their respective staffs look on in concern, they’ll be performing the civic duty of “getting right on that.” Hopefully, this will result in the institution of the currently-missing protections. But it can just as easily result in this being yet another law Congress doesn’t have to follow — especially if the numerous legislators currently unconcerned with the lack of strong whistleblower protections decide their interests are more important than the public’s.

A few legislators were aware of the missing protection, however. Senator Barbara Boxer is already working on legislation that will encompass federal employees not currently covered by existing laws, and Senator Ron Johnson has already set up his own whistleblower “hotline.”

“I would say that is news to me,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., when told that legislative workers were not protected. “I think they should be. And certainly we’ve [set up] a website, whistleblower@ronjohnson.senate.gov, and I hope they would take advantage of that.”

“I’ll protect ‘em,” he added.

It’s not clear how much protection Johnson can offer anyone not currently covered by whistleblower protections, but a senator’s office likely offers a bit more of a shield than going it alone.

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Comments on “Legislators Want Better Whistleblower Protections, Forget To Include Their Own Staff Members”

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JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Theyre Joking, Right?

Exactly! That’s why the reporter doing the interview didn’t get the sarcastic replies to his questions. We didn’t see the rest of this reply:

“They should [be protected],” McCaskill said. “I’ll go right back to the office and say, ‘Draft that legislation!’” And then he started running in place. “I’m running back to my office!” He pantomimes shouting. “Draft that legislation! What?” He turns to the reporter. “They want to know if ‘whistleblower’ is all one word, or hyphenated.”

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Theyre Joking, Right?

You know, in looking back at my joke above, I noticed one frightening thing: this guy doesn’t make his own drafts for legislation; by his own words, someone else writes everything for him! Which actually seems more probable when you consider what we’ve learned about the MPAA and other such groups and what they think the politicians they donate to should be doing.

metalliqaz (profile) says:

Re: Now go back and ask them...

That’s not the kind of whistle-blowing they want to protect. They want to protect the guy who rats out on corrupt billing practices and other low level fraud that costs the government money. Any dissenter that calls bullshit on straight-from-the-top illegal policies must be destroyed immediately and buried.

Stephen says:

Lack of Basic Research?

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., another of the caucus’s founding members, was shocked to learn congressional employees are not protected.

To paraphrase an old saying, enact in haste, repent at leisure.

It sounds as if the those who drafted the legislation, and their supporters, did not bother with conducting some basic research first before they crafted their bill.

This is, of course, assuming the exemptions the article refers to were indeed unintended and not deliberate.

ThatDevilTech (profile) says:

And certainly we’ve [set up] a website, whistleblower@ronjohnson.senate.gov

Anyone else catch this? Just shows the technical prowess of Sen. Johnson to think an email is a “website.” Guess that’s what you get when you have lawyers and businessmen deciding technical policy when the majority of them have no freakin’ clue what a website is versus an email address.

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