WHISTLEBLOWERS -- Zachary Roth, in a report posted on Talking Points Memo, said yesterday that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the "centrist" dealmaker who's been in the limelight
this week for helping to pass a watered down stimulus package, worked "to strip from the final bill a measure that's
crucial to exposing that waste"—improved protection for federal whistleblowers.

Currently, those protections are shockingly weak. According to
the Project On Government Oversight, whistleblowers who are fired or
demoted can file a complaint with a government board -- but over the
last eight years, that board has ruled in favor of whistleblowers only
twice in 55 cases.

    More to the point, the protections were designed to encourage
federal workers to point out cases where taxpayer money is subject to
waste, fraud, or abuse -- a legitimate concern when Congress spends
$800 billion, and one that centrists and Republicans have been
particularly exercised about.

    Yesterday, 20 members of the House, from both parties, sent a letter to House negotiators urging them to ensure that the protections remained.

The letter was signed by Californians Lynn Woolsey and Jackie Speier.

    But, according to a person following the bill closely, Collins used
today's conference committee to drastically water down the measure,
citing national security concerns as the reason for her opposition. In
the end, the protections were so weakened that House negotiators
balked, and the result was that the entire amendment was removed.
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    To make matter worse, Collins is the ranking Republican on the Senate
Homeland Security and Government Affairs commitee, which, as an
oversight committee, might be expected to see its role as protecting
whistleblowers. She also sits on the Senate appropriations committee,
giving her a strong position from which to wield influence during
today's negotiations.

But, as one observer notes, Collins did no more than what the Washington Post demanded in this editorial, which drew this response from the National Whistleblower Center.