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Wednesday, January 19,2011

Rick Jones: media whore

by Kyle Melinn

It started earlier than this, but I first marveled over state Sen. Rick Jones’ unique ability to steal headlines in late 2005 when he vowed to "save Christmas."


Jones says today he can’t remember doing this, but in the weeks leading up to Christmas ’05, the then-first year state representative cut a press release calling on state officials to rename the Capitol’s "Holiday Tree" the "Christmas Tree."


"Rep. Rick Jones Saves Christmas" screamed the outlandish headline to the amusement of my media cohorts.


Amazingly, a year later, the Senate passed a resolution doing just that.


I’m not saying Jones is magical. He just gets in the media. Newspapers, radio, TV, the Internet, it doesn’t matter.


The attention makes Jones a media whore in the eyes of the Democrats he insistently bangs on and the envy of fellow Republicans who a) don’t make the effort to get into the press or b) aren’t as good at it.


Over the holidays, the rest of the 147 state lawmakers’ minds were anywhere but on state politics. Jones had the stage to himself, and he took full advantage, making sure someone’s foot was firmly planted in Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s rear end on her way out the door.


The
Grand Ledge man hit her for not giving Michigan State University some
cleanup money for asbestos in the former Michigan State Police
headquarters building on Harrison Road. The governor’s Liquor Control
Commission waffled on the Sunday morning alcohol sales for a couple of
days. Jones was on them for that.


He
found a state employee who told him Granholm’s Department of Energy,
Labor and Economic Growth let $500,000 in military veterans’ job
training money fly out the window because the department couldn’t spend
it in time.


State
employees alerted Jones that the Granholm administration was in the
process of giving 28 state employees a combined $100,000 in raises. He
blew the whistle on that.


Then
Granholm signed a bill that initially appeared to have eliminated the
sentencing guidelines for possession of K2 (synthetic marijuana) and
Ecstasy.


"GOV GRANHOLM REPEALS PENALTIES ON DANGEROUS DRUGS," blasted Jones’ release.


Initially,
Granholm’s office tried to ignore Jones. They’d gone to war with the
bombastic state lawmaker when Jones made his very public appeal to
eliminate the Office of the First Gentleman, and they didn’t want to
relive the experience.


After a while, they couldn’t help themselves.


Last
month, the governor’s office was going to have Jones make a ceremonial
tribute to a constituent in Jones’ district. The day before the event,
Jones was told the governor was having someone else do it.


Days later the press office shot back its own volley.


"Rep.
Jones would better serve his constituents by doing his job — by ending
lifetime health care benefits for people like himself," said Liz Boyd,
Granholm’s press secretary. "Instead, he seems to be spending his time
issuing daily press releases about the governor."


The
next day, what did Jones do? He called for the Legislature to return to
session to repeal lifetime health care benefits for people like
himself.


If there’s
a controversial issue to be found, Jones is on it like flies at a
picnic. If there’s not one handy, he finds one. People readily give him
tips.


Being the
former Eaton County sheriff, Jones knows folks within the Michigan State
Police and law enforcement. Being a Republican representing a district
all of two miles from the Capitol, Jones receives tips from government
employees eager to report perceived shenanigans.


Interestingly,
Jones isn’t a conservative in the traditional sense. He trumpeted from
the highest mountain the finding of 17 "babies" in the dumpster of a
Delta Township abortion clinic. He wanted Tazers legalized so badly, he
willingly got himself Tazered during a House committee meeting.


In
the political newsletter MIRS’ annual ranking of most conservative
lawmakers, Jones was tied for the third most moderate among Republicans,
behind former Rep. Dick Ball of Laingsburg.


Jones is the Capitol’s biggest populist. He’s
the common-sense police. Like when he worked with Rep. Mark Meadows,
D-East Lansing, to pass legislation that allow critically ill state
prisoners to be released so their hospital bills are footed by Medicaid
as opposed to the Department of Corrections’ budget.


This
year, Jones is in the Senate. It will be different. There, the
Republican majority runs as a pack and likes it that way. Running
high-profile solo projects is frowned upon.


I
told Jones jokingly several weeks ago that I’d need to hire a beat
reporter at MIRS just to cover all of the activity he drums up.


I may not need one if the Senate rubs off on Jones. I may need 25 more if Jones rubs off on the Senate.




Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. He can be reached at melinn@lansingcitypulse.com

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