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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kloucek Promises Legislative Discussion of Chicoine-Monsanto Deal

Sibby and the Mitchell Republic bring us this story first; that Sioux Falls paper and DWC come toodling after: State Senator Frank Kloucek (D-19/Scotland) is proposing legislation to put some serious limitations and oversight on the ability of our university presidents to serve as highly paid corporate board members. Senator Kloucek is responding specifically to SDSU president David Chicoine's appointment to the Monsanto corporate board and the mondo bucks he'll get for that gig ($400K in cash and stock options, $80K more than he makes as SDSU president).

Kloucek's concerns sound very much like criticism we've heard from the SDSU Collegian and from this very blog: Big Ag buying influence, threat to public perception of the quality and independence of SDSU research, etc.:

“It’s just totally inappropriate to give that money to an individual rather than to the university for research,” Kloucek said. “It appears pretty clear-cut that they’re trying to buy influence at the university by buying influence with the president.”

...“There will be at least one bill,” Kloucek said. “I just think it’s better … to make it clear the we’re not in that kind of game at South Dakota.”

The appointment of Chicoine to the Monsanto board negatively affects the credibility of the university, Kloucek said, since crop research reports from SDSU could easily be assumed as skewed.

“This research must not be tainted in any way, shape or form and this certainly taints that research,” Kloucek said. “It … jeopardizes the integrity because it makes it look like we’re in the hip pocket of Monsanto” [Austin Kaus, "Senator to Regents: Fix SDSU Conflict," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2009.06.19].

It doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to reason that if a guy has two bosses, and Boss M pays more than Boss S, then when push comes to shove, Boss M will probably have more pull. (Remember the Golden Rule: he who has the gold makes the rules.) Of course, Dr. Chicoine, who has a Ph.D. in economics, doesn't see it that way:

"My value to them comes as an economist," [Chicoine] said. "It comes from independence.

"If you don't perform to the criteria that is required for your appointment as an independent member, your appointment is not maintained. If you're not fulfilling your independent director's business, you'd be lacking of integrity, and you're of no value either to the company or to your own profession."

..."I'm in compliance with regents policy," he said. "It is standard for the industry. There is a disclosure process and transparency process in place in this state and every other state for presidents serving in this regard. So I'm comfortable with it" [Steve Young, "College–Corporate Links Targeted," that Sioux Falls paper, 2009.06.21].

Kloucek's fellow Democratic Catholic farmer (and my neighbor!) Senator Gerald Lange (D-8/Madison) isn't comfortable with it:

"I see a conflict," Lange said. "So, yes, I think Frank's onto something. I would support any bill he brought on the issue" [Young, 2009.06.21].

Strangely, the main blog voice from the seat of Monsanto's purchased power in South Dakota finds it more important to hurl personal insults at Kloucek (and surely, shortly, at Lange) than to address the actual issue:

Frnak [sic] Kloucek is proposing legislation.

Good for Frank. He can propose. Too bad it’s likely misspelled, and written in crayon... [Pat Powers, "Monsanto Job... Legislation to Be Utterly Ignored, Considering the Source," Dakota War College, 2009.06.20].

(I wonder if the Munsterman campaign Powers manages will be relying on such playground rhetoric. Powers could take a lesson in class from Kloucek, who criticizes the Chicoine–Monsanto deal without any such demeaning and irrelevant personal attacks.)

Should a university president, as Kloucek tells Young, "be living, breathing and eating SDSU 24 hours a day, seven days a week"? I'll grant a guy a sabbath... but I'll also note that DSU expects me to put DSU first, and I'm just a lowly graduate assistant. My contract explicitly forbids me from taking other full-time employment. That doesn't restrict me from serving on a corporate board (and I'll certainly consider offers to attend a few meetings for $400K a year... or even $40K a year!), but it does set a threshold at which DSU would consider me not to be putting sufficient emphasis on my research and teaching.

Public discussion of a similar threshold for our state university presidents is a fine idea. Senator Kloucek is to be commended for his willingness to raise this issue in Pierre.


  1. "Strangely, the main blog voice from the seat of Monsanto's purchased power in South Dakota finds it more important to hurl personal insults at Kloucek (and surely, shortly, at Lange) than to address the actual issue..."

    Lange? You mean the terrorist's apologist?

  2. If I'm on the opposite side of an issue from two of the worst legislators in Pierre as well as Sibby, I think I'll sleep just fine tonight.

  3. The acceptance of the Monsanto board post is the kind of thing that makes people outside the state laugh at -- not with -- South Dakota.


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