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Jewish World Review March 23, 2001 / 28 Adar, 5761

Jennifer Sergent

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Consumer Reports

Linda Tripp as lobbyist? -- AFTER three years of tarring from the Clinton White House and the press, Linda Tripp is ready to go public again, this time to support legislation to increase protections for whistle-blowers.

Tripp refers to herself as "the most infamous whistle-blower" since she told independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr about one-time White House intern Monica Lewinsky's affair with President Bill Clinton.

"I believe some good can come out of all this," Tripp said Thursday after addressing a private group of Republican House members, "to the extent I can encourage whistle-blower protection and encourage people to come forward and not be frightened by Linda Tripp."

Tripp, who has largely remade her image with weight loss and cosmetic surgery, arrived at the U.S. Capitol wearing an elegant gray pantsuit with a fur-lined collar. She said she has finally found peace with herself now that the Lewinsky ordeal - and the Clinton presidency - are over.

"I'm probably more at peace spiritually than I ever have been in my life," she said. Now, she wants to prove to people that she's still standing "when the shotgun fire has dissipated."

"If I can do that, then I think I will have done something worthwhile in the end," she said. "I see it as a duty."

Lawmakers have iproposed two bills this year that address whistle-blower protections. One bill introduced in both the House and Senate aims to strengthen protections specifically for federal employees. It would force agencies to pay from their own budgets the judgment any of their employees receive for discrimination or whistle-blower retaliation.

Another bill, introduced in the House, would make those damages tax-free. Now, the only untaxed damages are those that result from emotional distress from a civil rights violation in the form of physical injury.

Tripp sued the federal government last month after she was fired from her job at the Defense Department when George W. Bush became president. Government officials said her job ended because she was a political appointee and most political appointees lose their jobs when a new administration comes in.

Tripp claims her firing constitutes whistle-blower retaliation. She came to the Capitol on Thursday at the invitation of a group of Republicans known as the Theme Team. The congressmen serve as the Republican communications arm of the House, giving regular speeches on the House floor to push the GOP agenda on certain themes or topics.

When Congress is in session, the lawmakers invite speakers to their weekly meetings. Past speakers include former Clinton adviser Dick Morris; BET Television President Robert Johnson; ABC anchor Sam Donaldson; and singer Carole King. The next scheduled speaker is National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston.

"I try to keep it interesting," said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who heads the Theme Team. "This is political nutrition for political junkies."

Kingston said Tripp was reluctant to speak to the lawmakers before the 2000 election. "Now that the election's over, she's coming out," he said. "She's a very sincere woman and has a very remarkable tale of woe."

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