Barack Obama signs whistleblower bill backed by Todd Platts into law

Todd Platts

President Barack Obama today signed into law the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act – a measure that U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County, and others have been working on for eight years, according to a news release.

The law increase protections for federal employees who report waste, fraud and abuse in government.

“The WPEA means that federal workers who defend the taxpayers finally can defend themselves. Without those rights, bureaucratic cover-ups and repression would continue to be the norm at government agencies,” Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, said in the news release. “Taxpayers have Mr. Platts to thank for this breakthrough, as much as any member of Congress. With his retirement, the taxpayers are losing a very special public servant.”

Platts said in the news release that passage of the legislation “demonstrates that Congress can come together on a bipartisan basis to address the challenges confronting the federal government.”

The whistleblower protection legislation was one item on Platts’ to-do list in his final legislative session, which I wrote about earlier this month.

Full release, after the jump:

 

Whistleblower Protection Bill Long Championed by Platts Signed into Law

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Todd Russell Platts (R-PA-19) applauded President Barack Obama’s signing of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) of 2012 (S. 743) today.  Congressman Platts has a long history of championing protections for federal employees who blow the whistle on illegalities, gross mismanagement, and dangers to the public health and safety.  He joined Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49), Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) in introducing the House version of this legislation earlier this year (H.R. 3289). S. 743 was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives in September and the U.S. Senate earlier this month. Congressman Platts attended the signing ceremony at the White House this afternoon.

“Protecting federal employees with the courage to come forward – at the risk of their own careers – to report waste, fraud, and abuse that they have witnessed is an important cornerstone of good and effective government,” said Congressman Platts.  “The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is the culmination of years of work by many individuals and groups.  Its passage today demonstrates that Congress can come together on a bipartisan basis to address the challenges confronting the federal government.”

S. 743 restores the Congressional intent of the original Whistleblower Protection Act by plugging the loopholes that have developed through a series of Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decisions.  For example, the court has ruled that an employee is not protected for disclosing waste, fraud, and abuse if he or she directs criticism to a supervisor, or if the information disclosed was done in the course of the employee’s ordinary job duties.  The Federal Circuit at one point even stated that – for a federal employee to “reasonably believe” there is evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse, as required by the law – he or she must overcome with “irrefragable proof” the presumption that the agency was acting in good faith – a standard of proof almost impossible for a whistleblower to meet.  Since whistleblower law was last strengthened in 1994, more than 200 whistleblower cases have come before the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals – yet only three successful whistleblowers have prevailed.

Congressman Platts first introduced whistleblower protection legislation in 2004.  His legislation was approved by a House committee in 2006, and another version of the bill was passed by the full House in 2007.  H.R. 3289 was approved earlier this year by a vote of 35-0 in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, on which Congressman Platts serves as a Subcommittee Chairman. Congressman Platts is retiring at the end of the 112th Congress.

S. 743 had the support of numerous organizations, such as the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and the National Taxpayer’s Union.  The legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate in April by Senator Daniel Akaka.

“This reform bookends Congressman Platts’ legacy of good government.  Over a decade ago he began his career in Congress by freeing up campaign finance reform. He is ending it as the longest House sponsor in a 13 year marathon campaign to restore credible free speech rights for federal government whistleblowers,” said Tom Devine, Legal Director of GAP. “The WPEA means that federal workers who defend the taxpayers finally can defend themselves. Without those rights, bureaucratic cover-ups and repression would continue to be the norm at government agencies. Taxpayers have Mr. Platts to thank for this breakthrough, as much as any member of Congress. With his retirement, the taxpayers are losing a very special public servant.”

About Ed Mahon

County government and politics reporter at York Daily Record/Sunday News.
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