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News / Clark County News

Press Talk: Is there a Trump/Benton connection?

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor
Published: December 3, 2016, 6:10am

When President-elect Donald Trump assured the country he would “drain the swamp,” nobody asked him what he would refill it with.

Apparently, the answer is with guys like our very own Don Benton.

I’m not kidding!

As you know, Benton is our state senator until the end of the year. He opted not to run for re-election when he realized he couldn’t win it. Benton was also the county director of environmental services until the department he oversaw was disbanded and his job was eliminated. 

So Benton is hoping to get back on the public cash train by landing a Trump job in D.C. But that’s not the only way he hopes to cash in with public funds. He’s hoping that Clark County taxpayers will leave him a little present under his Christmas tree.

Like a $2 million claim he’s looking to file against the county.

Merry Christmas, Clark County!

If all of that isn’t weird enough, Benton also is using my name in his legal filings as a justification to cash in. More on that later.

Trump’s clean slate?

Trump, of course, talked big to potential voters, claiming he would drive all the lifelong political hacks out of D.C. So he could do what? Refill the swamp with (dramatic pause required here) his political hacks?

Nothing’s official yet, mind you, but Vancouver insiders are saying Benton is in line for some midlevel appointment. 


Because Benton headed Trump’s Washington (this Washington) campaign.

Forget that Benton couldn’t deliver Washington. Heck, Benton couldn’t even deliver Clark County, his home.

But when you’re paying off political favors, you give stuff to people who don’t deserve it.

The Benton file

For those of you paying more attention to pork roasts than politics, Benton has had a long history of working the taxpayer system. His best score was that big-paycheck county job. Well over $100,000 a year. So when he lost that, a guy like Benton was not going to walk away quietly.  Thus, the legal battle the county is about to get into.

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In a poorly written and meandering tort claim, Benton is asking for $2 million from taxpayers because the county department he ran — environmental services — was disbanded and his job was eliminated.

Of course, he never should have had that job to begin with. But Benton’s cronies on the then-Board of County Commissioners handed it to him, even though he had no qualifications in the environmental field.

Benton essentially claims he wasn’t treated very well and that the department’s demise and his job loss were payback because — you guessed it — not very many people were happy he got the job to begin with.

My involvement 

But how the heck did I get mentioned in this claim?

It’s a bit convoluted, but Benton tries to make the case that his boss, County Manager Mark McCauley, didn’t protect him … from me.

What the …

Apparently I had the bad habit of trying to get Benton to answer some questions about what the heck he was doing. So I’d call and email and text him. And this apparently made Benton feel bad.

Benton would never answer my questions, other than to say he felt I was harassing him and he would pursue a restraining order against me.

Oh, my!

And according to Benton, rather than McCauley’s protecting him from me, McCauley told Benton he should act more professionally when a journalist contacted him.

All of my questioning apparently created great angst for Benton.

According to the tort claim, “Benton told McCauley that his blood pressure went up and he got headaches every time Brancaccio contacted (him.)”

Now, I apologize if I made Benton feel bad, but having to answer difficult questions comes with the territory when you’re a highly paid public figure. I told Benton several times, he has the right not to answer my questions. But because he’s a public figure, I have the right to ask.

Will Benton leave town?

So I guess we’ll wait and see if Benton does land yet another public job, this time in D.C. And yes, I did text Benton a few days ago, asking about his prospects of going there. And no, there has been no restraining order filed against me. 

And no answer from Benton.

Columbian Editor