While serving as Assistant Attorney General under the first President Bush, William Barr took aim at the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.

Whistleblower Lawyer Stephen M. Kohn
Stephen Kohn

Now President Donald Trump’s Attorney General nominee, Barr stood alone among top Justice Department officials in vehemently opposing” the provisions,  Stephen M. Kohn, a partner in the firm Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto writes in the January 13 issue of The Hill.

“Although his arguments against the False Claims Act have long been discredited, his underlying reasoning reveal a deep-seated animus against whistleblowers,” Kohn writes.

The National Whistleblower Center has issued an “Action Alert,” calling on supporters to contact members of the Senate and urge them to Question Barr on his prior anti-whistleblower positions :

In the Hill, Kohn notes that top leaders in the Trump administration’s Justice Department have praised the law.

Barr called the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act a threat to “the liberties of the American people,” Kohn writes.

“This hyperbolic fear misconstrues the meaning of “liberty.” What is liberty in a democracy?  The right to defraud the government? The right of powerful special interests to use their connections and money to stop enforcement of the laws? Or is it the right of citizens to fight corruption and hold powerful individuals and corporations accountable?”

Kohn calls on the Senate Judiciary Committee members to ask whether Barr “will strongly defend the law against legal attacks and whether he will continue the longstanding practice of having the Department of Justice partner with whistleblowers in fighting fraud.  He must be asked whether he still believes that empowering citizens to help detect fraud is a “threat to democracy?”  Given the Justice Department’s critical role in protecting taxpayer dollars from fraud, any person who is unwilling to aggressively support whistleblowers is not qualified to hold the position of attorney general.”

Last week, a group of advocates, academics and attorneys has asked U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to find out if Barr is still opposed the whistleblower provisions. Committee hearings on Barr’s nomination begin Tuesday, January 15.

A Reuters column quotes a source as saying Barr “will back down from that view,” at the hearing. The source notes that Barr supports the Department of Justice’s current approach to the False Claims Act.