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Posts published in May 2008

Paid here, paid there

Mark Emmert

Mark Emmert

The theory behind paying those high executive salaries and compensation packages, like the $905,000 for University of Washington President Mark Emmert, usually carries the explanation that top talent needs top pay. Needs it, the theory goes, both as incentive to do a good job (though if they were so good, would such incentive be needed?) and as a loyalty encourager and enforcer: You wouldn't put any other obligation before the one that pays you so well, right?

Which raises a question of what degree of loyalty two of Emmert's newest employers - they are paying him for services rendered - might expect. They're both board positions, but Emmert will be compensated substantially for them: By Weyerhauser $70,000 a year and $70,000 in stock, and by Expeditors International $200,000 a year in stock.

Where exactly does that put him in any dealings those corporations might have with UW?

The story has broken all over the Seattle media; we were taken by this tag on a Post-Intelligencer blog post: "It isn't untypical for highly paid university leaders to sit on boards. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported earlier this year that the only two public university presidents earning more money than Emmert in the 2006-2007 school year both sat on corporate boards."

A closing thought: What if we offered to pay university presidents, say, $50,000 a year and reasonable expenses? Might weed out a lot of the money obsession; and our guess is that the level of executive talent wouldn't change much.

OR: Novick-Merkley’s endorsement race

They've both got their backers. But in the newspaper endorsement race - for the Democratic nomination for the Senate - attorney Steve Novick is leading House Speaker Jeff Merkley. (Merkley did finally get today a positive story in the Oregonian, but that's one of the few media breaks he's gotten in months.)

How the endorsements, so far at least, break down:

Novick: The Portland Oregonian (this is by far the big one), the Medford Mail-Tribune, the Pendleton East Oregonian, the Ashland Daily Tidings, Willamette Week (weekly), the McMinnville News Register, the Portland Mercury (weekly), the Portland Tribune.

Merkley: The Eugene Register-Guard, Salem Statesman-Journal, Bend Bulletin.

Advantage: Novick. His advocates seize on his unconventional style, political and policy smarts and passion; Merkley's point to a strong record in the Oregon House. Actually, most of the editorials make both sets of points about these candidates, the difference coming in where you put the emphasis. But this has to be said: More often than not, newspapers will go with the more conventional, establishment choice, and the one with the longer resume of public offices. This time, even while offering few criticisms of Merkley, they didn't. The newspaper editorial boards (at the primary stage at least) should have been a Merkley audience.

ALSO Seems in our review that Illinois Senator Barack Obama has swept the newspaper endorsements in Oregon so far. Or has Hillary Clinton picked up one we missed? (Among the majors and others, we know the Oregonian, the Register-Guard, the Willamette Week have endorsed Obama; the Salem Statesman-Journal plans a presidential endorsement on Sunday.)

UPDATED Edited to add two recent Novick endorsements. And to note here that we're considering only endorsements by general-interest news publications aimed at a broad community, not a specific interest (and some of those have endorsed in the Senate race too).