Chip Rogers gets a do-over

The Covington News - - OPINION - BAR­BARA MOR­GAN COLUM­NIST Bar­bara Mor­gan is a Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent with a back­ground in news­pa­per jour­nal­ism, state government and pol­i­tics.

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 ridi- culed as an en­voy from the lu­natic fringe in across­the-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 poli- tics 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

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