All Politics is Local

When your powers combine… Don Benton’s Wikipedia page is a battlefield

On Nov. 25, someone made 3,395 character changes to the Wikipedia page of state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.

The edits — which you can see side-by-side here — include removing nearly all articles from The Columbian, shaving off editorial pieces from other periodicals across the state, and changing lines such as “In 2013, Benton introduced a bill that would have effectively banned abortion in the State of Washington” to the less controversial “In 2013, Benton introduced a bill that would give parents the right to be notified if their minor daughter was having surgery.”

Just another classic case of ‘you say potato, I prefer the term pro-life legislation.’ Nothing out of the ordinary for Wikipedia, really.

And because this is the nature of a community created encyclopedia that doesn’t strictly police sources, there’s really nothing wrong with this. I checked the IP address to make sure no one was doing this from the county. They aren’t. So it’s all fair play on the Wikipedia battlefield.

Still, there are many, many other edits made that might raise eyebrows. Such as the claim that “Benton has surprised many critics …” after he was appointed to be the county’s director of environmental services by Republican Clark County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke.

I’ve been to most of the commissioner meetings since Benton’s hire, and I’ve heard the critics. I don’t think those folks will change their minds even if the commissioners combine their magic rings and Benton turns into Captain Planet.

Oh man, how cool would that be? Haha, let’s go on a tangent and imagine it for a minute.

MADORE: “Let our powers combine! HEALTHY PARKS!”

STUART: “STORMWATER LITIGATION!”

MIELKE: “MORE STORMEWATER LITIGATION!”

BENTON: “When your powers combine…”

...I AM CAAAAAAAPTAIN PLANET!"

…I AM CAAAAAAAPTAIN PLANET!”

*Captain Planet saves day.*

*The commissioners cheer.*

BENTON: “Aw shucks, just doing my job. Happy to help commissioners. The power is yours!”

-Fin-

Oh, but we all know that could never happen. The commissioners can barely hold a meeting without fighting. They’d never combine power rings.

Wait, what are we even talking about? Oh yeah, Wikipedia!

Okay, so no source on which critics have changed their minds.

Also changed was “voted against a state rebate to taxpayers receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit” to “Benton routinely supports efforts to raise the exemption amount for seniors and disabled property taxes.”

There’s also a retelling of how Benton lost the reelection to the chair of the Washington state Republican Party.

Being fair to whoever edited Benton’s page, it’s not like the original entries were totally straightforward. For example: “Benton has been characterized as a “shoot from the hip” lawmaker known for a “bombastic” style and a frequent unwillingness to compromise.”

Not too surprising to see that get deleted.

But my favorite is the change of “His appointment was controversial as it bypassed standard civil service hiring standards and Benton had no previous experience in environmental services” to “…the newly elected majority on the council exercised their authority to appoint department heads.”

That last one is likely to get some resolution this coming year. In a court of law.

And when that happens I am sure one party will write it up on Wikipedia and source the lawsuit. And then someone else will delete it. Because that is what really happens when powers combine.

Erik Hidle

Erik Hidle covers Clark County government for The Columbian. He can be followed on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ehidle, on Twitter at @col_clarkgov or contacted by email at erik.hidle@columbian.com

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