Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

Reporter

Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment. PGP public key.

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21 CEOs With $100 Million Golden Parachutes

| Wed Jan. 18, 2012 7:00 AM EST

For some CEOs, the easiest way to get rich is to quit.

Increasingly, corporations offer their chief executives fantastically generous severance packages—retirement bonuses, extended stock options, and pensions that can add up to $100 million or more. Call 'em platinum parachutes. These deals are supposed to benefit shareholders by encouraging CEOs to take a long-term view of corporate profits, but some compensation experts have their doubts. "Too many golden parachutes and too many retirement packages are of a size that clearly seems only in the interest of the departing executive," says a new report by GMI, a corporate governance consultancy.

By way of example, the report singles out 21 CEOs whose severance packages are worth more than the median US earner would make in 49 lifetimes. In the case of GE's John Welch Jr., the figure would be 203 lifetimes. But you could still argue that the most outrageous example is Viacom's Thomas Freston, who put in just one year of work for his $100-million-plus sendoff.

GMI, "Largest Severance Packages of the Millennium"GMI, "Largest Severance Packages of the Millennium"

The Venn of Ron Paul and Other Mysteries of Libertarianism Explained

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 3:26 PM EST

Congressman Ron Paul's third-place finish in Tuesday's Iowa Republican Caucus was a remarkably strong showing for a candidate who has so little in common with mainstream Republicans. Perhaps the nation's most politically unique congressman, Paul shares policy stances with conservatives, liberals, and libertarians, while differing markedly from all of them.

So where does Paul fit in the Libertarian universe?

WSJ & Politico Still Horribly Inflating Size of US Chamber of Commerce

| Thu Dec. 22, 2011 5:44 PM EST

The bad news for the US Chamber of Commerce is that the world now knows that Chinese hackers broke into its computer system. The good news is that its membership has suddenly increased tenfold. This is according to the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Politico, which reported yesterday that the US Chamber of Commerce has 3 million members, 2,700,000 more than it has claimed as of late.

Did a few reporters accidentally misplace a decimal point? Not likely. Most media outlets used the "3 million members" line until 2009, when I discovered that the Chamber's true membership is no more than 300,000. After a bit of back and forth, the Chamber was forced to agree with me. Many reporters continued using the wrong number until I called them on it, at which point the 300,000 figure finally won out. Or so I'd thought.

The inflated reports of the Chamber's size have allowed it to claim to speak for a broad swath of American businesses, when in reality it's a dark money outfit controlled by a few ultra-wealthy special interests. In 2009, just 16 members accounted for 55 percent of its $200 million budget. 

So here we go again. A math lesson for Siobhan Gorman of the Wall Street Journal, Tim Mak of Politico, and Gerry Smith of the Huffington Post (who should know better): 3,000,000 - 2,700,000 = the correct size of the US Chamber of Commerce.*

*If you count only dues-paying members, the true Chamber membership is probably closer to 100,000, but what's a couple hundred thousand here or there?

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