Paper: known consultant working inside Range agency

The Mesabi Daily News is shocked, shocked (!) to learn that the commissioner of the Iron Range Resources agency might be making arrangements to become a private consultant after her term is up this winter. The article is full of the sort of dramatic attempts to solicit comments usually reserved for those convicted of unseemly behavior. But, a public official turning around and becoming a consultant after their public service is over? Gads! What if our state senators or county commissioners started doing this? Or other public administrators? Or pretty much all the powerful people on the Iron Range? My, oh, my, I’m getting the vapors!

I would hate for the MDN‘s outrage to be circumstantial. This is a paper that does a good job with trees, but not so hot with forests. The problem here is systemic. The practice of “consultantry,” as it could be called, does run rampant on the Range, as it probably does in every place where the private sector intersects with the government. Companies and organizations want to exert influence and will do so using all practical means. Former public officials offer connections and soft skills, and often find themselves looking for work unexpectedly. This (entirely legal) system is what crops up after you bust up the political machines and patronage system and proves that we haven’t really busted up the machines and patronage system. We’ve only detached it from the ugly competitive forces of machine politics, rendering the whole works ineffective and much less interesting.

It’s not that consulting is a bad thing. It’s that consultants should be rewarded for actual services rendered and results achieved. If they’re selling a name or services rendered under their previous titles, well, that’s a different thing entirely. There’s no evidence of that going on here. If any is found, it’s not even close to the only example.

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