Stop Features Key Whistleblowers on Climate Change, Salmonella-Tainted Peanut Butter
(Washington, DC) – Next Thursday, Jan. 17, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) will bring its acclaimed program, the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability, to Franklin & Marshall College. The stop will feature prominent whistleblowers Rick Piltz (White House/climate change) and Kenneth Kendrick (peanut butter/Salmonella scandal).
GAP's Tour is a dynamic campaign aimed at educating the public – particularly university students – about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing. This event will feature a moderated discussion and is free to all. A full description of the Tour can be found at www.WhistleblowerTour.org.
This Tour stop is sponsored by GAP and Franklin & Marshall College, and is part of the college's Common Hour event series. This weekly series is held each Thursday during the academic year at midday, when no classes are in session, and is intended to bring the entire F&M community together for culturally and academically enriching events, and to promote dialogue on vital international, national, local and institutional issues.
The program will last from 11:30 a.m. – 12:35 p.m. at the College's Mayser Gymnasium, and is free and open to the public. Piltz and Kendrick also will present classroom talks to F&M students.
- Ken Kendrick: Between September 1, 2008 and April 20, 2009, Salmonella-tainted peanut butter originating from Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) plants sickened 714 people across 46 states, contributing to nine deaths. Prior to the outbreak, Kendrick, the former PCA assistant plant manager in Plainview, Texas, had made multiple attempts to alert both state and federal officials to numerous public health violations he was witnessing. Although the widespread Salmonella contamination was traced to PCA's Georgia plant, it was Kendrick's whistleblowing on Good Morning America that belied the company's defense that the batch of peanut butter from the Georgia plant was an unexpected and isolated event. Kendrick made clear that PCA's entire business was based upon risking the health of consumers in order to protect profits.
- Rick Piltz is a former senior associate in the coordination office of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. In 2005, he blew the whistle on the White House's improper editing and censorship of science program reports on global warming intended for the public and Congress. GAP, which represented Piltz, released edited reports to The New York Times that documented the actual hand-editing – by White House Counsel on Environmental Quality Chief of Staff Philip Cooney, a lawyer and former climate team leader with the American Petroleum Institute – which was done to downplay the reality of human-driven global warming and its harmful impacts, and to exaggerate scientific uncertainty. This scandal sparked a media frenzy that resulted in the resignation of Cooney, who found a job at ExxonMobil days later.
GAP President Louis Clark, who has spent more than 35 years at GAP protecting whistleblowers, will moderate the panel. Stated Clark, "Whistleblowers have made incredible differences for citizens across the world – actions that often result in innocent people being protected from deadly products. Whistleblowers should be recognized, protected, and honored, and that's what our Tour is all about."
About the Tour
This stop at Franklin & Marshall is the third of several to be held this academic year. Previous stops have included the University of Houston–Clear Lake and Whitman College. Future stops will include Auburn University, Florida International University, Indiana University-Purdue, and Indiana University-Bloomington, to name a few.
During the 2011-12 academic year, the American Whistleblower Tour visited 13 colleges, including Auburn University, Mount Holyoke College, Rutgers University-Newark, Syracuse University, Tulane University, and the University of Texas at Austin. GAP secures some of the most prominent whistleblowers in American history for its Tour. Last year, whistleblower presenters included Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Frank Serpico (NYPD), Sherron Watkins (Enron) and Susan Wood ("Plan B").
Goals of the Tour include raising awareness about the vital role whistleblowing has in our democracy, preparing America's youth for ethical decision-making, countering negative connotations associated with whistleblowing, connecting prospective whistleblowers to available resources, and encouraging academic studies of whistleblowing.