I've written before about how plastics industry executives who might be tempted to jump into politics — you know, go to Washington and straighten things out — might want to think twice. Most business executives aren't prepared for the criticism they'd face in the public arena.
Case in point today, once again courtesy of Wisconsin's junior U.S. Senator, Ron Johnson.
In his most recent financial disclosure report, Johnson revealed that Pacur LLC, the sheet extruder he owned before he was elected, paid him $10 million in deferred compensation shortly before he was sworn in.
Daniel Bice, author of the “No Quarter” column in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote about the payment last week. It was clear from Johnson's comments in the column that he was not happy answering questions about the payment.
“You take a look in terms of what would be a reasonable compensation package, OK?” Johnson told Bice. “It's a private business. I've complied with all the disclosure laws, and I don't have to explain it any further to someone like you.”
Johnson's critics are howling, charging that Johnson used almost $9 million of his own money to run for Senate, and now the company has reimbursed him for the effort.
If that was the case, it could be a way around campaign finance laws — although Johnson denies the connection.
The U.S. Senate has got plenty of other millionaires, but few with experience in manufacturing. But for anyone tempted to join him, remember, this is the kind of criticism that politicians — at least on the national level — face every day.
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The Monterey County Weekly in Seaside, Calif., is unhappy that many restaurants in its circulation area are ignoring local bans on polystyrene takeout containers. So the newspaper has created a database of offenders, and now it is asking readers to help add to the list.
“Nobody likes to tattle on their favorite restaurants. And we understand that in these times, any added expense is hard on business owners,” Kera Abraham wrote. “But elected officials — like our own readers — have sent a strong and united message that getting this toxic stuff out of the waste stream (and natural streams) is worth the extra investment.”
She wrote that as of June 15, 18 local restaurants were apparently violating local PS bans, while 12 were in compliance.
City officials don't really have the time or staff to go around and check on whether restaurants are complying with bans. So if anyone is going to pressure them to do so, it's likely to be local papers like this one, and grass-roots environmental groups.
Even if 99 percent of customers don't care if a restaurant is using PS takeout containers, it takes just one complaint to draw attention.
So while I don't think most patrons would bother to report a violation, this “tattle” strategy could work in towns where the local media embrace the bans.