The Silver Standard and Romona Paden, contributor


Marcel Reid, within a few years of entering the world of grassroots activism, shifted from pointing out institutional injustices against low- and middle-income communities to calling foul on the very “social justice”

organization where she had been devoting untold amounts of time and effort.

Discovering theft and fraud at the highest levels the Association of Community for Reform Now (ACORN) transformed Reid from community activist to whistleblower.

“Whistleblowing is saying something no one wants to hear,” says Reid. “The kind of truth we’re talking about is the kind that can change the world.”

Too many organizations, while presenting a public face of great benevolence, are in truth fostering abuse, corruption, and wrongdoing at the expense of the needy they claim to help. The whistleblower who speaks the truth that shatters that image can expect plenty of blowback. It takes a strong chord of heroism to weather that, and that was certainly evident at last month’s 2019 Whistleblower Summit in Washington, DC.

As Reid describes her experience in exposing institutional corruption, one is reminded that doing the right thing often means facing disdain and contempt from colleagues as well as some form of retaliation. It frequently can result in job loss, false accusations, and maligned reputations—even with existing whistleblower protection laws. “They’re traumatized,” Reid says of whistleblowers facing down corruption.

Whistleblowing itself plays out on multiple levels. Oftentimes, whistleblowing comes down to calling for institutional accountability around illegal, unethical, or otherwise destructive and dishonest activity. It can be a powerful tool in building general societal awareness around norms and behaviors that need to be changed.

Whistleblowing dates back to the country’s very earliest days. In the months following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a group of 10 sailors petitioned the Continental Congress with a complaint about British prisoners of war being treated in a “most inhuman and barbarous manner.” In response, the Continental Congress suspended the commander from his post.

Those seamen took on the risk of whistleblowing with open eyes. Though not often mentioned in present-day biographies, the commander, Commodore Esek Hopkins, was the brother of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and a former governor of Rhode Island.

As the soldiers must have expected, he retaliated. He filed a criminal libel suit against all the men and arrested and jailed the two service members who were present in the state of Rhode Island.

Again, the whistleblowers spoke up, appealing to the country’s new Congress, in a petition stating that they had been “arrested for doing what they then believed and still believe was nothing but their duty.”

Not long after, on July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress unanimously passed the first whistleblower law.

As Reid plowed through the trials of her modern whistleblowing experience exposing ACORN’s entrenched corruption, she found an ally in Pacifica Radio, a progressive/liberal non-profit organization of five independently operated, non-commercial, listener-supported radio stations. She was ultimately elected to serve as a director on their national board, leading it to become the first national media outlet to incorporate whistleblowing into its platform. Many say that credit for the passage of the 2012 Whistleblower Enhancement Act rests with Pacifica’s steadfast commitment to whistleblower coverage.

Currently, Reid serves as the first national media whistleblower liaison for Pacifica Foundation, a sole position within the media industry. By supporting whistleblower efforts globally, Reid continues her efforts to shed light on corruption worldwide.