Press Talk: Lists … in all the wrong places

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Hey, I made it onto a list once.

Back in high school, I decided to wear a pair of rented bowling shoes — you know, the ones with the big shoe-size number on the back — to class.

I thought I was beginning a way-cool fashion trend. Instead I ended up being on a list of brainless ideas.

So when state Sen. Don Benton made yet another list this week, I couldn’t help but feel his pain. Been there, buddy.

Yes, this is the same Don Benton that county Commissioners Dave Madore and Tom Mielke snuck through the back door to become the county’s environmental services director. Yes, this is the same Don Benton who knows as much about the environment as Rep. Jim Moeller knows about the NBA’s triangle offense. (Sorry, Jim, that I haven’t mentioned you in several weeks. Been so busy with the M&M boys and this nutty Benton thing, I’ve been remiss. Hope this helps.)

Well, now Benton has made a list of state lawmakers who never saw a free meal they couldn’t resist. At least if that free meal came from a lobbyist.

The easy solution for not making a list like this? Use some common sense. Pay for your own meals, boys. But our friends in the state Capitol are so used to not paying for stuff — first from taxpayers, then from lobbyists — well, common sense isn’t what they’re looking for.

The Associated Press took a look at how many legislators take advantage of the free steak and lobster. And my buddy Don is right up there.

If you look only at those legislators who represent Clark County, well, he’s way up there.

Call me what you want, but don’t call me late for a free dinner.

He’s not the only one, of course. My buddy Jim has had more than a few free pizzas on a lobbyist’s dime.

But my buddy Don seems to end up at the top of a lot of these lists. And that got me to thinking. Benton should start a list of all the lists he has made. Why? Well, it might be something to help fill out his résumé.

Remember, Benton doesn’t show much environment stuff on his résumé. The M&M boys said it was all his management experience that swung him into his new $100,000-a-year county job. But then I couldn’t quite figure out exactly what he was managing.

So I’m thinking the M&M boys should change the job description again to fit Benton. This time it would say “making the list” is the key attribute.

Let’s see …

• He’s on the list for free meals from lobbyists.

• He’s on the list for having taxpayers pony up for his dry cleaning bill.

• He’s on the list to have his official photo touched up so — among other things — the whites of his eyes are even whiter.

• And– if he takes my suggestion — he could be on the list of guys who are mostly on lists!

Why, Why, Why?

Honestly, I — and many, many others — simply can’t figure out what the M&M boys were thinking when they hired Benton. It’s a real head-scratcher.

Back when Madore was still talking to me, I tried to get him to explain why he would pull such a bonehead play as hiring Benton.

The way I saw it, Madore had a long-range plan — an important one in his opinion — and he really was risking the entire shebang over some stunt like this.

Of course, Madore doesn’t see it that way. He thinks Benton was the right choice for the job, period. Whatever heat will come his way, so be it. And there’s plenty of heat. I guess he is willing to risk it all rather than just backpedal and hire an environmental services director the right way.

And why would he risk it all? Here’s what he said to me:

“Whatever the path ahead, I will not tarnish a good man’s reputation.”

I can respect his view. But … come on now!

I’ll give Benton one thing. He’d probably never be caught in public wearing rented bowling shoes.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, or Twitter:

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