[Foundation-l] Seat and Donations (SPLIT from: EFF & Bitcoins)

Birgitte_sb at yahoo.com Birgitte_sb at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 24 17:22:15 UTC 2011

On Jun 23, 2011, at 9:20 PM, Mike Godwin <mnemonic at gmail.com> wrote:

> Michael Snow writes:
> And for people who were worrying about the implications, I think setting
> things up in stages is just as likely to make it look worse as to make it
>> look
>> better.
> I think Michael's point here can't be overemphasized. It seems to me likely
> that there would be just as much criticism and/or expressions of concern if
> the Board appointment had been offset by a few months as there was when the
> grant and the appointment occurred close in time. Perhaps there would have
> been even more criticism, for the reasons Michael outlines. The fact that
> the Board opted to go ahead with the appointment, knowing full well there
> was a strong possibility their motivations would be questioned, is an
> argument *in favor* of Matt's candidacy for a board appointment --
> specifically, the Board felt Matt added so much value that it was worth the
> risk that the appointment would be criticized as being a condition of the
> grant.

There is only one thing I think wrong with the consensus narrative above. The description "Matt added so much value it was worth the risk". More accurately it would read "Matt added so much value it was worth the *cost*". There wasn't some potential bad outcome that was fortunately avoided; there was an actual erosion of confidence in WMF. People became a little more leery of the board and a bit more hesitant to quickly endorse WMF positions. 

I trust that the resulting good outcome was worthwhile all the same. But a good outcome does not in and of itself restore what was paid out to gain the advantage.  I know we needed Matt's expertise. I do not think there can be any doubt attaching him was worth the cost in confidence.  Whether the money was worth the cost in confidence would be the limiting factor long before the appointment of Matt.  Looking at the situation alone it surely was the right decision.  But if every decision of this kind is only decided on individual merits, confidence might erode too quickly.

The seat wasn't bought, truly it wasn't. But the price WMF paid was to surrender that narrative in order to gain a valuable board member and a grant. No matter how much any accurate and nuanced re-telling disagrees; the story will remain: "How the American Executive bought a WMF Board Seat."  The events hit too many of the right notes for that title to die. Not to mention the loss of face the tale's death would be to the storytellers at this point in time.


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