Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Barbara Holzer, Broadcast Manager
w. (202) 588-7716
bholzer@citizen.org

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779
kgower@citizen.org

Ben Somberg, Press Officer (regulatory matters)
w. (202) 588-7742
bsomberg@citizen.org, Twitter

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog
Facebook/publiccitizen

Follow us on Twitter

 

May 14, 2007

Congress Must Strengthen Protections for Whistleblowers, Public Citizen Says

Joan Claybrook Delivers Keynote Address for "Washington Whistleblower Week" Highlighting Importance of Whistleblowers to a Healthy Democracy

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Whistleblowers are crucial to the health of democracy and need stronger protections from Congress against retaliation, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook told attendees at the first day of events for "Washington Whistleblower Week." Public Citizen joined with more than 40 whistleblower and public interest groups in sponsoring a week-long gathering of whistleblowers from throughout the country in Washington, D.C., to share their stories with Congress and the public.

Claybrook gave the keynote address at the Russell Senate Office Building, launching a full day of panel discussions focusing on the importance of whistleblowers in preventing government waste and fraud, and protecting national security, scientific integrity and the public health. Claybrook discussed the need to strengthen whistleblower protection legislation and the importance of open and accountable government for a healthy democracy.

"Without transparency, the special interests hijack government agencies and run them in the service of private, parochial profits," Claybrook said. "We have seen this happen again and again under the current administration, and no trend is more corrosive to democracy."

A series of court rulings since 1994 has weakened the safeguards Congress intended in the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), making it extremely difficult for whistleblowers to protect themselves when they speak out to protect the public. Claybrook called for support of bills currently in Congress that would remedy the situation by strengthening whistleblower protections. On March 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, 331 to 94, essential reforms to the WPA, H.R. 985, the "Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act." The bill extends protections to federal employees who work in national security, including those at the FBI and intelligence agencies, as well as to federally-funded contractors. It also protects all federal employees who disclose wrongdoing in the performance of official duties. The bill provides federal employees and contractors with a right to jury trials in federal court to challenge reprisals. A similar bill is under consideration in the Senate, S. 274, the "Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act."

If the House bill were to become law, it would negate a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that limited the rights of employee-whistleblowers. In 2006, Public Citizen argued Garcetti v. Ceballos in the Supreme Court on behalf of a Los Angeles County prosecutor, Richard Ceballos, who was retaliated against after telling his supervisors of his belief that police falsified an affidavit to obtain a search warrant. The Court ruled that the disclosure was made in the course of his official job duties, holding that he was entitled to no protection, not even his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

"Conscientious civil servants deserve strong statutory protections - not bureaucratic intimidation," said Claybrook. "Federal employees should not have to sacrifice their careers and livelihoods to do the right thing by disclosing information to protect public health, reduce fiscal abuse or secure the nation."

To read Claybrook’s speech, click here.

To learn more about "Washington Whistleblower Week," click here.

###

Copyright © 2014 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.

 

To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.