Christmas came early - this week, in fact - for the now former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock. After a string of embarrassing missteps in a seemingly gilded political career, Rogers got to resign his senate post - only one month after winning re-election - and glide into a newly created executive-level job at Georgia Public Broadcasting. "I am honored by this incredible opportunity," he gushed. Disgraced politicians just never seem to go away. They have as many lives as cats are said to have, no offense to my own.
Really, how lucky can a guy get? Just when Rogers had become radioactive and a national embarrassment, Georgia Public Broadcasting announces that its president Teya Ryan and Gov. Nathan Deal have dreamed up a "new programming initiative designed to facilitate coverage of economic development and jobs in Georgia." Conveniently, Rogers' resignation from the Senate made him available to "accept a position at GPB spearheading this initiative beginning with a statewide weekly radio program examining current economic development trends and highlighting companies that are growing and creating jobs." No salary for the newly created position has been announced.
"Much of my career has been spent in broadcasting ...," Rogers was quoted as saying in the press release. "I assume that's why they approached me about it," he said in an interview with WSB-TV. His illustrious career in broadcasting includes one-time part ownership of a Cartersville radio station and on-air announcer. He continued his dabbling in broadcasting beginning in the early 1990s as a cable TV pitchman for a football-handicapping client, as he has tried to explain it. This is despite the fact that in Georgia, it is illegal - and has been for years - to advertise a gambling operation, as reported by Atlanta Unfiltered and The News Enterprise, a student program at Emory's journalism department. (The "client" John Edens will turn up later.)
Rogers put Georgia in an unflattering national spotlight in October when he hosted a virtually mandatory seminar for Senate Republicans on the dangers conservatives see in a United Nations resolution passed at a 1992 climate change summit in Brazil.
Simply put, the resolution promotes land use planning and sustainability, but fear-based critics see that encouraging things like bike paths, solar panels and sustainable land use as an assault on personal property rights. The national Republican Party is so worried about Agenda 21 that it included a plank opposing it in its convention platform. (Clearly, it did nothing for the party's desired outcome.) Rogers was ridiculed as an envoy from the lunatic fringe in across-the-board national media coverage. Georgia got a black eye, as well.
Last year, Rogers and business partner Tom Graves, Georgia's ninth district freshman Congressman, convinced the previously named John Edens - called a "gambling industry entrepreneur" by Atlanta Unfiltered and The News Enterprise - to assume ownership of a failing Calhoun motel for which they had taken out a $2 million loan from Bartow County Bank.
The bank came after Rogers and Graves, who held that they were no longer accountable and argued, in fact, the bank should never have loaned them the money. Ultimately, an out-of-court settlement was reached, but the bank failed nevertheless, leaving taxpayers on the hook.
Come November, voters in Rogers' Fulton and Cherokee district, re-elected the man to another term, but the heat and stress of unflattering national publicity was building. Rogers also has been the ringleader in an unseemly battle with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for control of the state senate, and the continuing chaos may have contributed to the top level decision that is was time for Rogers to go. But in Georgia politics these days, you don't just resign without having a cushy place to land. So based on Rogers' sketchy - at best - experience in broadcasting, he's deemed qualified to become an executive at Georgia Public Broadcasting, a job that appears to have been conveniently created with Rogers' exit in mind. President Teya Ryan says otherwise, but as a state employee, she's had to learn the art of politics, and that means you don't say no to the governor.
In Rogers' interview Tuesday with WSB-TV, he said, "I have to thank the governor - he is a big fan of what GPB is doing - for having the vision along with Director Ryan, of what we're missing and what can be done, and bringing this opportunity to me. So it was a combination of an opportunity that I never dreamed would exist, with a point in life where you recognize that some of the responsibilities that you've taken on for yourself begin to conflict with others that are of higher priority." It never fails to amaze when a disgraced and disgraceful politician gets a do-over at taxpayer expense
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.