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Democracy Protection Initiative

Democracy Protection Initiative: Leveraging whistleblower information to catalyze accountability and reform  


The Problem
The idea for the program first sprouted early in President Donald Trump’s administration and crystalized when Government Accountability Project represented two confidential whistleblower clients who were witnesses during the first impeachment investigation of the former president. These whistleblowers and many others were subject to attacks on social media, leading to doxing, defamatory harassment, and violent threats. Harassing witnesses seemed intended to not only punish truth-tellers, but also silence potential future ones. The power of these ethical civil servants made clear how vital it would be to support and protect future whistleblowers and witnesses in coming forward with information about abuses of power and politicization of agencies that threatened the bedrock of democracy. The stakes to the country, and the risks to employees of conscience, could not have been higher.  

The Approach
The Democracy Protection Initiative was officially launched in 2020 with a goal of protecting whistleblowers with information about illegal efforts to undermine elections and a peaceful transition of power, as well as threats to democracy through politicization and the spread of disinformation in the United States. The project’s goal is to build public, NGO, government regulatory, and policymaker support for the protection of democracy by bringing government official and public attention to the insider information from whistleblowers about undemocratic, unfair, and corrupt actions of government agencies and their leaders. The project advocates for the reforms needed to rectify the identified problems, defends truth-tellers, and campaigns with public interest allies about disclosed corruption. It serves as a lifeline to employees of conscience and helps them release critical information that serves the public interest and the common good. 

The Impact

  • Thirty whistleblower clients were pushed out of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) for exposing efforts by the director to degrade the editorial firewall between U.S. policymakers and USAGM journalists. Their advocacy prompted the agency head’s firing and reinstatement of all the whistleblowers.  

  • Worked with three dozen whistleblowers reporting the horrific conditions of immigrant family detention centers, flawed policies for asylum seekers, the use of extended solitary confinement for unruly detainees, and the housing of children in tents with unqualified supervision and inadequate medical care – leading to the permanent closing of the detention center. 

  • On behalf of several whistleblowers and working with a federal employee union, prevailed upon the head of the Office of Special Counsel to investigate and rule in their favor challenging the gag order against all employees at the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security from speaking to the media or Congress.  

The Future
The team’s future plans include: elevating client stories to strengthen positive public narratives about whistleblowers as guardrails of democracy; training election workers and officials, as well as employees in fields likely to discover threats to the 2024 U.S. election, on whistleblower rights and best practices; and developing rapid-response networks with partners to support election-related whistleblowers.