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Posts published in “Day: April 28, 2010”

R-71: Whose privacy?

The Washington case over whether names on ballot issue petitions must be kept private or are public record went to oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court today. Read through the transcript, and you'll probably see a leaning toward the public-record side of the debate.

Here are some pieces of the transcript, from the Supreme Court web site. (Should be noted here that it wasn't just the Washington attorney general's office putting in an appearance, but AG Rob McKenna making the argument personally, something that doesn't always happen with state AGs.) What follows is a large chunk of the Q&A with Bopp. (more…)

Emmert and the vacancy


Mark Emmert

Let's see now, once again: A large part of the rationale behind paying university presidents such ever-increasing salaries is the concern that if they weren't so paid, that they might leave if they turned out to be good in their job . . .

So here we are, as University of Washington President Mark Emmert, who has gotten a good deal of praise over the last several years (and surely deserved it for his strong fundraising skills, another other positives), and was given a compensation package amounting to $906,500 . . . splits for a new job, as president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

You could say of Emmert, fairly, that the fact such a major national organization scooped him up says something about his reputation as a university president. But the practical reality is that a super-intensive (and expensive) search effort won't guarantee a great president, and high pay won't either do that or make a good one stay.

In this case, the departure does look linked to the fiscal cuts UW has taken in the last few years. While Emmert has maintained a firmly diplomatic face for the institution, his wife has let loose with what sounds like dinner-table conversation at the Emmerts', as in this from an e-mail to House Speaker Frank Chopp: "It [UW] had bigger cuts than any University in the country, including in California! The state is starving your district's golden goose and yet you DON'T even mention it as a concern?!!!! ... I need to know why you do not seem to care."

None of this showed up in any of the official statements by Emmert, the board of regents, state officials or the NCAA - none of them would have any interest in saying so now. But you wonder: Might Emmert have simply decided to hang in at UW if the funding picture for the next few years looked a little brighter?

It’s them liberals again

Remember those Family circus cartoons showing a broken vase on the floor and a frantic-looking toddler telling mom: "It wasn't me! It was Mr. Nobody" - while the ghost of a mysterious Mr. Nobody scampers past . . .

This being campaign season, well, here we are in Facebook from the Vaughn Ward congressional campaign: "Over the last few days the liberal media has begun attacking us. Please donate today to ensure the we have the resources to combat these liberal attacks. A $5 dollar donation goes a long way in helping us fight the liberal media."

Liberal, liberal, liberal: One per sentence. A piker (Kevin Richert notwithstanding): Surely Ward can up his booga-booga rate to two per sentence next time. There is a problem here: Since Ward is in a competitive primary election, the beneficiary of his troubles would be another Republican candidate, Raul Labrador, who's more or less about as conservative as he is. And, anyone complaining that their attackers are a pack of liberals might want to pause at least before implicitly including Dennis Mansfield, wo has aggressively seized on most of these points, in the group.

What's really happened here is poor campaign management: Most likely, a conclusion months ago on someone's part that uncomfortable stuff could simply be closeted until after the election, with the result that items easily addressable earlier have turned into political trouble later.

Sooner or later, someone was going to ask and make public where the Ward household income was coming from, since Ward - who isn't independently wealthy - is spending the year as a full-time candidate. In many a campaign the opposition would have raised the question long ago. (The answer is Ward's wife, who works for the financial entity Fannie Mae.) From one source or another (in this case, the local newspaper), sooner or later, the question was headed their way. A smarter campaign would have made it visibly public, put it up on their web site, months ago, giving it their own spin.

Property taxes (in Valley County) overdue? Not a huge deal, in one sense. The taxes have apparently been paid since the report came out, the campaign said. But why was this not vetted? Why didn't someone check to see if the candidate's taxes were all paid up?

Overuse of Marine imagery without a disclaimer that the military wasn't supporting the candidate? The rules are standard and candidates all over the country deal with them; did the campaign not check the requirements?

A borrowed truck in Ward's "truck" TV commercial? Wouldn't have been a problem had they, in announcing the ad, snuck in a quick word of thanks to the vehicle's owner in the press release or commercial, instead of uncomfortably trying to explain away the pickup's real ownership later.

So on it has gone in the last few weeks: This isn't gotcha stuff, this is campaign management 101. None of these Ward problems in recent weeks were massive issues inherently, but they became bigger because they blew up in the end game, which is what unaddressed political issues, even picayune ones, tend to do.