Benton staying at EPA as senior White House adviser

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Former Washington state Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver will be staying on at the Environmental Protection Agency as the agency’s senior White House adviser.

The EPA’s acting administrator, Catherine McCabe, announced the news in a video message to employees this week. However Benton told The Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday that he knew from the beginning that his post with the administration would be beyond the transition period, though he noted he serves “at the pleasure of the president for the time being.”

Benton said his role was always separate from some of the other transition members he oversees — such as Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen — who knew their positions would run no longer than 120 days.

In the video message, McCabe said that Benton would be working closely with her to advise her on the new administration’s policies and executive orders.

Initially, Benton managed Trump’s campaign in Washington. Following the Republican National Convention, his territory was expanded to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii.

In the months leading up to the election, Benton boasted of his relationship with Trump and spoke at a Trump rally in Everett.

During his time as a state senator, Benton drew criticism from environmental groups. The Washington Conservation Voters gave Benton a lifetime score of 26 percent before he left office.

In 2013, Benton was appointed director of the Clark County Department of Environmental Services. The move was criticized as a political favor by then-County Councilors David Madore and Tom Mielke, both Republicans.

Last year, Benton announced he would not seek re-election to the state Senate after 22 years in office in order to focus on running the county department, but the department was dissolved in May and Benton lost that job. His Senate term officially ended in early January.

Benton is now suing the county for $2 million in damages and attorney fees.