There was a bit of controversy in southeastern Minnesota recently when it was discovered that Dennis Egan, the newly re-elected mayor of the City of Red Wing, had taken a job as a lobbyist for a recently-organized lobbying group backing frac sand mining. As Greater Minnesota chronicler Sally Jo Sorensen notes, this was such a boneheadedly unethical move that even the pro-mining Winona Daily News asked “What was he thinking?” (My guess is that he figured that, since his being a career lobbyist for firms with Republican ties, a lobbyist so dedicated to his trade that he started and ran his own lobbying firm, hadn’t apparently set off any alarm bells for the voters of Red Wing, he could get away with having as another boss an entity determined to turn the beautiful bluffs of Red Wing and environs into huge sand mining sites.)
Calls grew for Mayor Egan to choose between his frac sand lobbying gig and his mayoral job, and early this morning — a Saturday morning, no less — he made his choice known: He kept the frac sand lobbying gig and dumped his mayoral post, his resignation from the latter to occur by April 1.
But here’s the Bizarro World coda to this affair: The editorial staff of the hometown paper, the Red Wing Republican Eagle, put out an unbelievable piece of chutzpah mourning Egan’s resignation as mayor, going so far as to say this: “While we wish he’d had the wisdom and foresight not to become executive director of the new Minnesota Industrial Sand over until Council, he did, and the resulting debate over holding both posts escalated to the point of a near lynching.”
Ahem. A “near lynching”.
A “near lynching”.
To help clarify things for the Republican Eagle editorial staff, Sally Jo Sorensen links to the story of James Cameron, who in 1930 suffered a true near-lynching, when he along with two other black men accused of killing a white man and raping a white woman was severely beaten but whose life was spared by the lynch mob, which chose instead to hang his fellow inmates from a tree in the courthouse square. (The lynch mob in this case was being relatively merciful: They did not castrate the men, nor did they douse them with oil or kerosene and set them on fire as they hung, two common practices of lynch mobs. They did, however, break the arms of one victim when he tried to get the noose off his neck.)
So when a longtime lobbyist decides he wants to become one of the elected officials his clients pay him to lobby, and he’s called out on this when he signs up with a mining lobby that wants to gouge great big holes in the area’s biggest scenic jewel and tourist attraction, to the Red Wing Republican Eagle editorial staff that’s exactly the same as being beaten to a pulp, but narrowly escaping being hung by your neck from a tree — or being mutilated and/or burned while you hang.
Words fail me.