Press Talk: The Benton saga continues

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian's editor emeritus. His column of personal opinion appears the first Saturday of every month. Reach him at

He’s back!

No kidding. The man who single-handedly made an entire county department disappear, the man who tried — with no success — to get his wife elected to the county council to protect his county job, the man who sheepishly gave up his state Senate seat because he knew he would get whopped in the election … is back.

Of course we’re talking about Boss Hogg, Don Benton.

It appears that our newly minted president — The Donald — has tagged Benton to lead a small group to shake up the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

What the …

Now, there is either some very dense irony or a macabre-type wish upon us all for this to happen. 

Think about it. Benton was placed in the job of county director of environmental services by two cronies of his: then-County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke. Never mind that Benton couldn’t tell the difference between biomass and a baloney sandwich; the M&M boys doled out a political favor.

Lots of people were pretty dang upset. But the county couldn’t just fire Benton. It’s the government, people! So the entire department was eventually disbanded and Benton’s $150,000 county job disappeared.

Benton’s slot at the public trough was drying up, so he hooked onto Trump as his campaign manager for Washington. No, Benton didn’t deliver his home state. And, no, Benton didn’t even deliver his home county.

But Trump — who vowed to drain the swamp and end all this political cronyism stuff — got knee deep in it. So, now you have Benton, who doesn’t know jack about the environment overseeing a reorganization of the nation’s most important environmental watchdog.

Oh my!

Untold DDSS mug story

OK, you might not believe what I’m about to say, but I actually like Benton. Not in a professional, buddy, paisan sort of way. But in a cartoon-ish, goofy sort of way.

In fact, I liked him so much he was supposed to be the original character on our Don’t Do Stupid Stuff mugs.

No kidding! 

Back in 2013, when we were creating the second iteration of our Don’t Do Stupid Stuff mugs, the original character was Benton, not Madore.

Our extraordinary graphic artist, Marsha Matta, had designed Benton into our mug, but at the last minute, I changed my mind and switched to Madore.

So the art you see here is the beginning of Marsha’s art with Benton. (You can also see how the mug finally came out when we switched to Madore.)


Look, the DDSS mugs are going away. We’ve sold thousands, but it’s over for them.

Today, I’m not sure if Benton’s face on the mug would have been a better sale.

But what I do know is, it’s a lot easier to make our mugs go away than it is to make Benton go away.