Edwina doesn’t know the total number of rooms in Surry Hill


The New Republic published an article about Surry Hill in 2006. I’m reading it. I’m reading it and wondering what the HELL anyone was thinking suggesting Edwina Rogers to head the SCA – let alone actually approving her.

The piece of land it’s on was originally zoned for nine houses.

Edwina doesn’t know the total number of rooms in Surry Hill, but an elevator services the house’s three floors. Upstairs, Edwina’s bathroom (one of eight) features a small fireplace by the tub. But she is proudest of her home’s dazzling—and eclectic—art collection. “We do a lot of lobbying for foreign governments. I just can’t imagine any country we haven’t gotten a piece from,” she explains. Sashaying from room to room like a docent, she points out the eight-foot steel-plated pantry door from Rajasthan, the light fixtures from Venice, and the four Taiwanese stone statues, each weighing 300 pounds, embedded in her dining room wall. (The floor had to be reinforced with steel to support them.) Her most delicate pieces are housed in their own “art gallery”—a white-walled room where ancient figurines, pottery, and pieces of jewelry lay on cream-colored stands under Plexiglas. “We hired the company that does the Smithsonian’s display cases,” Edwina explains.

Let me put this crudely. She’s too god damn rich to run an organization such as the Secular Coalition for America. I realize it’s not a left-wing organization or an anti-poverty organization or a socialist organization, but all the same, it is an organization that intends to improve things, that is progressive, that wants and needs to appeal to large numbers of ordinary people as opposed to the richest .01%. It’s not intelligent to put someone that grotesquely over-moneyed in the job of running an organization of that kind. It’s alienating. It’s alienating before you even get to how the Rogerses got so fucking rich.

Within Republican circles, Surry Hill is an iconic placea Shangri-la for those who toil on Capitol Hill and along K Street. (“Have you seen Surry Hill?” Republicans are apt to say. “You’ve got to go.”) It’s also a testament to the rewards awaiting ambitious conservatives in modern Washington, where unprecedented wealth is being made from the business of politics. Just ask the Rogerses, who have ridden a boom in Washington lobbying during the last decade. Edwina, a former Republican Hill staffer and Bush White House aide, worked at the Washington Group, chaired by former GOP Representative Susan Molinari, whose clients have included Boeing and the government of Bangladesh. Ed, a former aide in the Reagan and first Bush White Houses and a regular on shows like MSNBC’S “Hardball,” co-founded the powerhouse lobbying firm of Barbour Griffith & Rogers in 1991. Last year, the firmwhose clients include Eli Lilly, Verizon, Lorillard Tobacco Company, and the governments of India and Qatarreported revenue of $19 million. Built from these lobbying riches in 2002, Surry Hill is the psychic center of McLean. And McLean, in turn, has become the psychic center of the Washington Republican establishment.

You know what? It shouldn’t be possible for unprecedented wealth to be made from the business of politics. Politics shouldn’t be a fucking business – it shouldn’t be for sale. It shouldn’t be corrupt.

McLean covers just 18 square miles and has a population of 40,000. But it is packed with the people who impeached Bill Clinton, elected George W. Bush, launched the Iraq war, and have now learned to make millions from their association with government. Some are famouspeople like Bill Kristol and Colin Powell, Scooter Libby and Newt Gingrich, several current and former Republican senators, and Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Dick Cheney once owned a McLean townhouseuntil he sold it to Bush’s 2000 campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh. Less well-known are the countless lobbyists, lawyers, and businessmen whose names rarely turn up in The Washington Post and who like it that waypeople like super-lobbyist Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff; Frank Carlucci, former chair of the Carlyle Group, the notorious global private equity firm with close ties to the Bush family; and Dwight Schar, a construction mogul who is currently finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

These are people who get rich by screwing over the population.

…it’s not merely political power that has accumulated in GOP circles over the last decade-plus. It’s also money. The modern Republican brand of corporate conservatism, embodied in the capital by Tom DeLay’s K Street Project, cultivated a climate of unprecedented accessand therefore profitfor lobbyists. If the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals didn’t tell you everything you need to know, consider some statistics: Between 2000 and 2005, the number of registered Washington lobbyists doubled to about 35,000and overall spending on lobbying grew by 30 percent, to $2.1 billion. A well-connected congressional aide can easily win a $300,000 starting salary on K Street.When John Boehner became House majority leader last winter, watchdog groups pointed out that a whopping 14 of his former aides had gone on to K Street lobbying jobs. Meanwhile, where it was once considered tacky for former members of Congress to lobby, they now routinely cash in their access and know-how for seven-figure earnings. In Washington, the spirit of public service has been overtaken by the profit motive.

And that’s where the people who chose the next Executive Director of the SCA found Edwina Rogers – not just a Republican lobbyist, but a grotesquely rich Republican lobbyist who got rich via Republican lobbying.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Of course she doesn’t live there any more since the divorce. I guess she was looking for something to do after she no longer had the keys to her husband’s lobbying firm, and it was felt that her rolodex might be useful for SCA. Still, just because she no longer lived in that particular grotesquely extravagant mansion doesn’t make her no longer obscenely wealthy and no longer out of touch. Her days of growing up poor are many long decades behind her.

  2. A Masked Avenger says

    I agree with everything you say here. I’d like to avoid losing sight, though, of an even bigger crime: that of the lobbied. These people couldn’t buy politicians if they weren’t for sale. It’s far from clear whether the lobbyists are the cause of an aberration, or whether they’re the effect. Google “milker bill,” for example.

  3. says

    Here’s my thought:

    These organizations always have their hands out for donations… getting donations seems to be their main purpose for existing. They spend very little money on actual activism. They pay 5-6 figure salaries to people who seem to do little or nothing, considering the amount of money we actually see spent. And then they give one of those huge salaries to someone who could fund the organization on her own without breaking a sweat while always and constantly begging for our money to pay their salaries and occasionally rent a billboard for a few weeks.

    I’m totally sticking with my evaluation of national organized secular/atheist/skeptic groups as being an enormous con game, scamming money from ignorant rubes by playing on their egos.

  4. melody says

    “Of course she doesn’t live there any more since the divorce.”

    She most certainly does.

  5. says

    Her ex husband wasn’t merely any Republican strategist, he was Lee Atwater’s protege. Lee Atwater is where he learned his craft. Edwina worked as an aide for reprehensible human being Trent Lott, who aligned himself with neo-Confederates, who equated homosexuality with “alcoholism, kleptomania and sex addiction” and praised Strom Thurmond, saying that “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.” You don’t work for people like that, in the kind of position she was in, if you don’t agree with their values. This is not the kind of person who should have been considered for the SCA position in the first place.

    And look at other aspects of her work history. For instance, the innocuous-sounding phrase “She served … as Vice President of Health Policy for The ERISA Industry Committee in Washington, D.C., where she advocated for the employee benefits and compensation interests of America’s major employers”, which makes it sound like she was doing something about employee benefits. Well she was, namely lobbying against them.

    Or “Rogers served as an Economic Advisor for President George W. Bush at the White House, at the National Economic Council, where she focussed on health and social security policy” which glosses over the fact that this means she was working to try to eliminate or greatly reduce Social Security.

    This is not a nice person.

    BTW, I suspect that the not knowing how many rooms are in the house is an attempt to be folksy and down to earth. I know, that sounds crazy, but I think it is. Folks like that are just so out of touch with the reality most people live in that they really don’t understand how it sounds when they do that. It’s just like when John McCain said he didn’t know how many houses he and his wife owned; I think he actually thought that would be a good answer, and was probably surprised when it turned out to be something that hurt him.

  6. Anthony K says

    BTW, I suspect that the not knowing how many rooms are in the house is an attempt to be folksy and down to earth. I know, that sounds crazy, but I think it is. Folks like that are just so out of touch with the reality most people live in that they really don’t understand how it sounds when they do that. It’s just like when John McCain said he didn’t know how many houses he and his wife owned; I think he actually thought that would be a good answer, and was probably surprised when it turned out to be something that hurt him.

    I think you’re right, anthrosciguy. I think the idea is that materialistic people obsess and brag about such things; humble people are too busy working to obsess about the details of their manses. An “aw, shucks; these ol’ rags?” kinda thing.

  7. says

    PZ, I know, and I was saying some of it myself, but a little bit tentatively. trying to separate my preferences from claims about how bad she would actually be…But I didn’t know this shit. If I’d known this shit I would have been way less tentative.

  8. says

    FWIW, I never remember the total number of rooms in my very ordinary inner-city house (I have to do a finger count, and wonder whether the L-shaped living/dining counts as one room or two). I would never forget that we have 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms though, and would be utterly amazed if Rogers really didn’t know how many bedrooms and bathrooms were in that house.

  9. Menyambal says

    I didn’t pay any attention when she was first mentioned, because I don’t do organizations like SCA. But dang if this isn’t far twistedly worse than my lowest expectations. [long string of Yosemite Sam noises]

  10. carlie says

    People like her are useful not just for their own pockets, but for their rolodex of people who owe them favors. If the SCA wanted to get a lot of money fast, this was definitely the way to do it. I think they just didn’t realize that they can’t take that route and also still have credibility asking those of us who are at the other end of the scale to donate money too, with the “we really really need your donation” chant.

  11. HappyNat says

    anthrosciguy @8

    This is not a nice person.

    This reminds me of an ex-friend, now I suppose and ex-acquaintance. Met him 20 years ago, we were all just out of college and he was dating a good friend I’d graduated with. At the time we were all working various shit level government jobs, he was an aid for a state representative. We’d hang out at cookouts and happy hour and he seemed OK. About the time he married my friend he began working for a lobbyist organization, but he would not refer to them as lobbyists, but they would take money from special interest groups and work to get legislation passed “behind the scenes”. It was always interesting to hear who he was working for, sometimes switching sides between elections.

    During 2004 he was doing all kinds of work for G W Bush’s reelection and during a night of drinking some of us confronted him. Nothing major, just questions, like how could you support this asshole. His response was that to him politics were “like sports”, you pick a team a root for them to win, of course his team was paying him a shit ton of money, but he assured us “it’s nothing personal”. I was too flummoxed at the time to say anything, but on they way home I had that thought, “this is not a nice person”. You can’t support the war crimes, lies, surveillance, ineptitude and everything else as rooting for a team, these actions affect real people negatively. He saw it as a paycheck *shrug* and what he is supporting is causing pain. He would never identify himself with a party, just whoever paid him, but often said he leaned libertarian.

    Since then he has taken over a lobbying firm, but don’t call them lobbyists, and is raking in crazy cash.Helping to get casinos legal in the state cemented him and his bank account. I’ve seen him maybe 3 times the last 5 years all at events where I wanted to see my old friend. All high class parties with top shelf booze and food and I didn’t have to pay for a thing. I still felt guilty sucking it up knowing what he supports. I don’t know how people like this sleep at night, do they really believe it’s just a game? I guess leaning libertarian helps . . .

  12. R Johnston says

    tigtog @14:

    FWIW, I never remember the total number of rooms in my very ordinary inner-city house (I have to do a finger count, and wonder whether the L-shaped living/dining counts as one room or two).

    Edwina Rodgers literally couldn’t do a finger count, or even a finger and toe count without borrowing at least one and maybe two other people’s extremities. If she could have done a finger count she would have. She didn’t because she knew the answer would not be a good one.

  13. A. Noyd says

    She probably doesn’t know how many rooms because she counts in the number of dignitaries (and their retinues) she can host at a time. And pays other people to work out the details.

  14. says

    BTW, I suspect that the not knowing how many rooms are in the house is an attempt to be folksy and down to earth. I know, that sounds crazy, but I think it is.

    “Out of touch with most people’s reality” seems to be an understatement. Really, normal people know quote well how many rooms they have. The know how many squre metres/feet/whatever they have. Having so many you can’t count them means you have damn well too many unless we’re talking about rice grains or peas.

    +++
    Well, seems like the only values such people have are dollar bills

  15. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Improbable Joe @4:
    I agree. These organizations consist of rich people, by rich people, and for rich people.

    I recently ran across something non-political on FB trying to drum support for what I would consider a good cause. I’d actually be tempted to kick in a little for the crowdfunding they are trying to get to support it, but then I look at the list of celebrity sponsors, and I think each of them could single handedly support this thing, and not even notice the missing money, yet here they are, trying to get me to kick in to get this project off the ground.

    It’s the same with politics, but uglier, and more self serving.

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