Joe Davidson's Federal Diary: Whistleblowers May Have Friend in Oval Office

President-elect Barack Obama has supported expanded protections for whistleblowers.
President-elect Barack Obama has supported expanded protections for whistleblowers. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)
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By Joe Davidson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008

While Barack Obama's election victory led millions of Americans to cheer and shout, a much smaller group of government watchers had reason to blow their whistles.

Whistleblowers in the federal government and those who work to protect them see a longtime friend in the next president.

"Attorney Obama and Senator Obama and candidate Obama and President-elect Obama have all supported whistleblower rights," said Adam Miles, the legislative representative for the Government Accountability Project, a public interest group that bills itself as the nation's leading whistleblower organization.

Obama's whistleblower trail starts before his days in public office.

When he was an associate with the Chicago firm of Miner Barnhill & Galland, Obama was among those representing Janet Chandler, a psychologist who charged Cook County Hospital with lying about the results of a federally funded program that served pregnant women on drugs.

The settlement resulted in money being returned to the government.

As a senator, Obama supported legislation that would increase whistleblower protection. Versions of that measure remain before Congress.

As a presidential candidate, he endorsed whistleblower protection legislation in the House that is stronger than the bill he voted for in the Senate.

President-elect Barack Obama has continued along this track. His transition Web site says:

"We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process."

Whistleblower protection advocates expect he'll have the chance to move from campaign promise to presidential performance early in his administration. "Extending serious protections for whistleblowers in the first 100 days is possible under the Obama administration," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.

There's a good chance final legislation will pass because similar versions passed separately in the House and Senate last year. However, there's no guarantee for such action in the first 100 days.

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