by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The first whistleblower law was unanimously passed by the Continental Congress on July 30, 1778. It stated in part “that it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information of wrongdoing to Congress or other proper authority of misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”
Even at the founding of this nation, the importance of whistleblowers was clear. Since then, oversight has remained one of the most important responsibilities of the legislative branch. The Constitution requires it. The public also has a right to know what their government is doing and how it’s spending their tax dollars. Without oversight, members of Congress can’t legislate in the best interests of their constituents or ensure the government is accountable to taxpayers. Whistleblowers play a critical part in Congress’s oversight efforts. They courageously raise their hands and disclose waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and all sorts of misconduct.
A recent example was a brave whistleblower at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He contacted me after he was put on administrative leave for more than a year and kept from running an addiction treatment program for veterans. His only “mistake” was to point out the poor treatment of suicidal veterans at his facility. After a concerted effort by my office, my colleague Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and the Office of Special Counsel, that whistleblower was restored to his position within the VA.