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.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.
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.
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.”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.
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.”
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, email@example.com, and I hope they would take advantage of that.”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.
“I’ll protect ‘em,” he added.