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 place—a 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 firm—whose clients include Eli Lilly, Verizon, Lorillard Tobacco Company, and the governments of India and Qatar—reported 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 famous—people 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 townhouse—until 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 way—people 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 access—and therefore profit—for 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 35,000—and 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.