BSP has the general summary of what’s going on, but today the Mayor of Red Wing took a side job lobbying for a frac sand mining organization, got heat for it, and basically chose being a frac flack over serving in the public interest.
One could argue that’s not a fair representation of the sequence of events, since by the time Dennis Egan’s resignation became public, his exit from elected life was all but assured, thanks to his earlier choice to accept a job lobbying for an organization that would have business before the City Council he led as Mayor. And oops, people got a little heated once they heard the news. Darned facts and their liberal bias, and, uh…freedom!
Look, sand mining is an issue of critical importance to the communities in southeastern Minnesota. The environment and local health standards would both suffer greatly if Egan’s new bosses had their way. But i’s the earlier choice that really cuts to the heart of the matter here. Let’s say I’m a public official, elected by the people of this city to serve in their interests. I have a job offer on the table from this organization that’s going to pay me a lot of money. It’ll probably help that I’ll be doing both, right? Efficiency! No one too important will have a problem with it, right?
It sounds ridiculous, but how different could it be from Egan’s actual thought process in this case? And yet it’s what we see over and over again, with officials up and down the roster of government. Even if they have to wait until their term actually ends, they know there’s a fat paycheck waiting for them, putting an insane value on the contacts they built up during their term. Except now they don’t have to worry about political externalities, coalition-building, or compromise. Now they just do what their even-richer corporate bosses tell them to do. And you can be darned sure those bosses don’t keep the public interest first and foremost on their action items list.
The revolving door between public officialdom and private insanely-well-paid-flack-dom spins onward, and it’s a big problem at all levels, federal, state, and local. It’s one we would do well to solve sooner rather than later.