Press Talk: The M&M boys and 'The Godfather'

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 
photoLou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor.

'It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business."

There are many lessons to be learned from the movie "The Godfather."

And "It's strictly business" was a lesson often repeated in "The Godfather" trilogy.

In the above scene, Don Corleone had just been shot, and his son — Michael — had just been badly beaten by a crooked cop.

Michael — who early on wanted nothing to do with the family business — was proposing that he meet with the crooked cop … and kill him.

Michael's brother, Sonny, cautioned him to not take this personally.

That's when Michael delivered his "It's strictly business" line.

What's the point here?

Sonny — the hothead of the family — understood one should never make a decision based on anything but business.

Allowing a personal view into the equation makes you do stupid stuff.

And, of course, that brings me to — you guessed it — the M&M boys. And their sidekick, Republican state Sen. and county Environmental Services Director Don Benton.

• • •

Although I've seen lots of stupid stuff done by many politicians, our Don't Do Stupid Stuff mugs were created with Republican Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke in mind. And, of course, Benton.

It appears these three caballeros have never learned "The Godfather's" lesson. Don't make decisions for personal reasons. It gets you in trouble.

These guys don't like The Columbian — me, in particular — because we hold them accountable for their actions. But instead of learning from that, they look only for payback.

It's politics at its worst. And because these guys also are terrible at masking their payback, they're not even good at being bad politicians. They feel so invincible, they simply act in the open and tell the public, "Screw you; what are you going to do about it?"

So, what's the latest goofball stuff they've been up to? Well, Benton — as the environmental services director — wants to design a new tax to help pay a huge fine the county owes for its earlier stupid stuff.

One of his proposals? Tax paper waste. He's designed his paper waste tax in a way that it would hit newspapers, but the criteria is so specific it would hit only The Columbian. The Reflector, the small, conservative weekly newspaper in Battle Ground — for example — would be exempt.

What a surprise.

If this were grade school, someone would take Benton out back and give him a good spanking!

The Columbian's First Amendment attorney, Eric Stahl, said there are a host of problems with this idea.

"Taxation that singles out the press is problematic under the First Amendment. When a tax targets a particular newspaper, or is imposed in retaliation for its viewpoints, it's plainly unconstitutional."

Stahl, who is in the Seattle office of Davis Wright Tremaine, said that in 1936, the Supreme Court recognized that taxes aimed at newspapers are a form of censorship. It struck down a Louisiana tax that applied only to newspapers with a circulation greater than 20,000.

• • •

But that's not all.

The M&M boys just awarded the legal ad bid to — you guessed it — the conservative-opinioned Reflector.

The Columbian has published these ads — which inform readers about what the county is doing — for years, because we reach more residents than any other publication.

When you compare paid readership with paid readership, we hit so many more eyeballs than The Reflector, the decision is laughable. Both newspapers also have free readership, but that is much less reliable for the obvious reasons: If you don't pay for something, there's no guarantee you'll read it.

Shortly after the contract was awarded to The Reflector, Madore publicly praised one of its editorials. Oh, my!

So once again, the M&M boys are trying to punish us for personal reasons.

I went to the meeting when the M&M boys made this decision. Everyone in the audience said they should go with The Columbian because we reach so many more people. Even conservative activist Carolyn Crain, a regular visitor to many governmental meetings and a supporter of the M&M boys, showed her disgust with the decision. When conservatives lose Crain, they're on a slippery slope to no place good.

Oh, the county staff recommended The Columbian, as well. Yes, that's the same county staff that Madore continually says does a super great job. Except maybe this time.

If you ever go to one of these meetings, you'll figure out pretty quickly that the M&M boys pretend they're listening to you. But they're really only waiting to open their pie holes again to tell you you're wrong.

More and more residents — including Republicans — are realizing these characters are not about making the county better. They are the worst kind of politicians. They are interested only in their personal agendas and taking care of themselves.

Obviously, they don't listen to me. Frankly, they don't listen to anyone unless you agree with them. But if they did listen, I'd say this:

Guys, don't do stupid stuff. And listen to the words of "The Godfather."