It's back! The Taxpayer Protection Against Fraud Act will be introduced in the General Assembly again this year, this time by Democratic Rep. Brandon Neuman.
The bill is a state version of the federal False Claims Act. Judging just from its title and stated purpose (to reduce “waste, fraud and abuse” in state government), who could oppose it? It may seem like a sensible proposal, but this isn't the first time a bad idea has been dressed up with an appealing title and a misleading description.
Like the federal whistleblower law, our state version would empower private citizens to bring action on behalf of the state against anyone suspected of defrauding the government and allow plaintiffs to receive sizable percentages of the monies recovered.
The problem with encouraging whistleblowers is that not all of them are motivated by sincere desire to expose wrongdoing and see justice done. Some are disgruntled current or former employees or dissatisfied customers seeking revenge for imagined slights. Some are attention-starved malcontents trying to secure 15 minutes of fame. Some are calculating crusaders trying to profit from counterfeit controversies.
Are we really so naive as to believe that all the whistleblowers we incentivize with this law would be zealous protectors of our state's legitimate revenue sources rather than greedy attorneys looking for easy targets?
And why the exceedingly generous monetary inducements for whistleblowers and their lawyers? Providing public praise for their integrity and intrepidity makes sense, as does offering protection from reprisals and maybe even reimbursement for costs incurred in the effort to expose fraud, but extravagant financial rewards for doing the right thing? Why?
It bears noting that the DC-based National Whistleblowers Center is associated with the Zinn Education Project. That's Zinn as in socialist subversive Howard Zinn.
Whistleblowers willing to risk all in pursuit of justice are admirable. Phonies using Alinskyite tactics to undermine the free market and harm the republic are not.