Yes, officially, Willamette Week is staying out of the race for Oregon attorney general this spring—no surprise since one of the two main candidates, Ellen Rosenblum, is married to the paper's publisher and co-owner, Richard Meeker. But, no, that doesn't mean editor Mark Zusman hasn't been whispering to friends in high places about his boss's wife's candidacy.
Exhibit A: Yesterday, the Oregonian published a glowing email about Rosenblum that Zusman sent to a top ranking official in the influential Service Employees International Union. It reads like a pitch for an endorsement—a little bit of "arm twisting" as Zusman himself notes in the letter's signoff. And that pitch, as the O notes, touched on a controversial topic keenly watched by labor unions: whether and how to reform public pensions for government workers—and whether and how to make individual workers' pension information public.
Zusman says Rosenblum would be way kinder to unions, compared to her main foe, former US Attorney Dwight Holton.
Also: Ellen is in PERS, so she has a vested interest in the matter of greatest importance to [REDACTED] in the previous AG's race. Dwight is currently practicing white collar criminal defense for Lane Powell—hardly a role that makes him a friend to the state's workers or to [REDACTED] membership.
Zusman told the O he really did write the letter and acknowledged that some of what he said in his pitch may run counter to the sunshine-seeking demands for transparency his paper might make. The O, however, didn't note whether he used a personal or professional email account. How he levied the pitch, whether it carried the imprint of his day job, is not a small question. I've left a message for Zusman hoping he'll clarify.
On a related note: Guess who answered the front desk at the WW? Mayoral candidate Max Bauske, who says he's working there now in a non-editorial role. I jokingly asked Bauske if his bosses will now have to recuse themselves from covering the mayor's race. And he jokingly replied: "No comment."
Correction: A previous version of this post said Rosenblum was Zusman's wife. It's been edited to reflect that very dumb error.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!