By Anthony Noel
NPA Communications Director
As 2008 became 2009, nine people died and more than 700 were sickened by products containing ingredients produced by Peanut Corporation of America. Do you remember the headlines?
Former company CEO Stewart Parnell, who reportedly “told his employees [in early 2009] that the company’s products had never tested positive for Salmonella, despite the 12 positive tests over the two preceding years,” is now standing trial on criminal charges in Georgia, and PCA is no longer in business.
But the story really begins at a PCA plant in Texas in 2006, where Kenneth Kendrick worked for four months.
During his brief tenure, Kendrick repeatedly warned Parnell of unsanitary conditions at the plant, including a leaking roof from which the feces of roosting birds washed in when it rained. Kendrick – who prefers “truth teller” to “whistleblower” – says the plant routinely exchanged shipments with the Georgia PCA plant to which products responsible for the deadly outbreak of salmonella were ultimately traced.
Since blowing the – er, telling the truth – on national TV at the height of the outbreak, Kendrick has experienced firsthand the ins and outs – mostly outs – of exposing corporate fraud. His honesty has cost him employment opportunities in state agencies, he says, leaving him with mounting debt and contributing to his divorce.
If that’s not enough, foods bearing PCA-processed peanuts even sickened his granddaughter, many months after he’d left the company.
In spite of it all, Kendrick doesn’t think twice about whether he’d do it again:
(The above is excerpted from remarks in 2011. See Kendrick’s full remarks here.)
It’s hard to imagine a post in government more crucial than ensuring the safety of the food we eat, even harder to think of a candidate better motivated than Ken Kendrick to make that happen in a state where, since the PCA debacle, more than 350 additional unlicensed food processing operations have been identified. That’s right, the PCA plant in Plainview was never licensed – or even inspected – by Texas authorities, and the ag commission certified it as organic. Site unseen.
There are three other candidates in this race. Republican Sid Miller’s last campaign finance report (July 15) shows that, mingled with contributions from dairymen, a cattle rancher and cotton farmer (i.e., interests he’ll be charged with regulating) are payments from PACs including Scott’s (the OH-based maker of home and commercial ag products), and DuPont, the chemical giant (read: pesticides) for total donations of over $46,000. It also lists his campaign manager as “Ted Nugent.”
Jimmie Ray Hogan, the Democrat, lists no fiscal activity since the primary, during which he listed only expenses – something over $400 for “travel within the district.”
And there are no gubmint reports on file at all from the Libertarian, Rocky Palmquist. (Big surprise.)
Kendrick, meanwhile, who describes his campaign budget as “on a shoestring,” has received one $25 contribution while spending about $30 with VistaPrint.
He has also shown integrity and a sense of duty to the greater good which we at NPA feel is without peer.
For these reasons, for his endorsement of the Unified Platform, and because we believe truth tellers are the only ones protecting us from corporate malfeasance, the New Progressive Alliance takes the rare step of giving an early, full endorsement and our highest ranking of 5 to Kenneth Kendrick, Green Party candidate for Texas Commissioner of Argiculture.
And truth teller.
On Thursday our series continues with a profile of Farid Khavari, running for governor of Florida as an Independent. We hope you’ll link to and share these profiles widely. NPA will announce its rankings/ endorsements of all Unified Platform endorsers for 2014 on October 15.