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Friday, April 14, 2017

The worst and the dumbest

by digby

He's running the government just like he ran his business:

Late Monday night, when many Americans were in bed, President Donald Trump quietly announced his intention to nominate former Washington state senator Don Benton (R) to be director of the Selective Service System, which operates the nation’s military draft.

This was when the problems first came to light.

They started with a White House statement that lauded Benton’s environmental record, and the three years he spent leading the Environmental Services Department in Clark County, Washington.

From the White House:

During his tenure [Benton], reduced the cost of removing hazardous waste from the waste stream while doubling citizen participation and tripling the tonnage of hazardous waste removed. Mr. Benton was also responsible for Clark County certifying more Green Schools than in any other county in Washington State.

Of the 204 words in the announcement, there wasn’t one mention of the military, the draft, or anything related to what the Selective Service System actually does. Nor were there any references to qualifications or experiences that prepare Benton to manage the millions of records in the draft system, or the agency’s roughly $25 million budget.

It was as if the White House had written the statement for a completely different job than the one Benton was being given.

Turns out, that’s exactly what happened.

Benton had originally been expected to fill a top position at the Environmental Protection Agency, where he was part of the Trump “landing team” during the presidential transition.

But this was before Benton began to infuriate his boss, the newly confirmed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Benton’s habit of interrupting policy discussions to make bizarre comments became so maddening, according to The Washington Post, that senior staff began keeping him out of policy meetings.

Benton is the first director in the history of the Selective Service who has not served in any branch of the military.

All of which posed a dilemma for the president: On one hand, Benton was an early Trump supporter and the chair of Trump’s Washington state campaign. Given how few Republican legislators were early Trump supporters, there was a real desire to reward each one. On the other hand, the agency where Benton was actually qualified to work, the EPA, did not want to hire him.

So Trump’s solution was to give Benton oversight of the military draft.
As the Trump administration struggles to fill more than 450 senior government positions, its combination of inexperience and political patronage risks creating a federal bureaucracy where patently under-qualified people are given oversight of critical government functions.

Benton’s case is a prime example of how this happens.

According to the White House, one of the chief reasons why Benton is qualified to run the Selective Service is that he has experience in business. “Benton started his first company when he was 17 years old, and has built and sold several companies since,” according to his White House biography.

Yet HuffPost was unable to find any evidence that Benton started a company at 17, or that he has ever sold any companies. That doesn’t mean he didn’t, but if he did, he did it awfully quietly.

Moreover, a wide-ranging HuffPost review of Benton’s public records, past interviews, marketing materials, biographies and corporate disclosures reveals that his career has been marked by lawsuits, ethics problems, public feuds and allegations of cronyism.

As a member of the Washington state senate for two decades, Benton was known for getting into vicious arguments with his fellow senators, some of which resulted in formal complaints.

A brief stint as state GOP chairman in 2000 lasted only eight months, during which Benton, who was already under pressure for allegedly mishandling party funds, fired the committee staff and changed the locks at party headquarters. Benton’s fellow Republicans ultimately voted to replace him.

In 2012, he threatened to file a $1 million libel suit against a challenger who pointed out that Benton had missed nearly 300 Senate votes in his four-year term.

In 2014, he accused a fellow senator of behaving like “a trashy, trampy-mouthed little girl.” The senator also said that Benton followed her around the Senate floor yelling, “You are weird and … weird! Weird, weird, weird. Just so weird!”

At the time, Benton had a job as director of the Clark County Environmental Services Department. But this position, too, was mired in controversy.

Political allies had given Benton the job, despite his having no background in environmental policy. After three tumultuous years, the department was dissolved in May of 2016. Six months later, Benton sued Clark County for $2 million.

Through it all, his marketing firm, The Benton Group, had continued to peddle motivational seminars to sales teams at local TV stations.

Luckily for Benton, by the time his job for the county environmental services department was eliminated last year, he’d already found a new patron: Trump.

It takes one to know one ...

Read on to see how he ripped off the campaign too.

This really isn't funny. They are filling to government with idiots, loons and con men, some of whom, like this person, are all three. How can this continue?