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Crashergate, Desiree Rogers, and the Chicago Way: Land of no consequences; Update: House panel to hold hearing

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By Michelle Malkin  •  November 30, 2009 04:04 AM


White House social secretary Desiree Rogers makes her grand entrance at last week’s White House State Dinner…


…while grifter couple Michaele and Tareq Salahi snuck in the back and circumvented security to gain access to President Obama…

Readers of this blog and of Culture of Corruption are already quite familiar with Desiree Rogers.

She’s the intimate Chicago fund-raising crony of Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett who was once married to fellow Obama crony and frequent White House visitor John Rogers, chief executive of multi-billion-dollar Ariel Capital Management. They both bundled hundreds of thousands in donations for Team Obama before Desiree was appointed to head the White House social secretary’s office — an office smack dab in the middle of the Crasher-gate scandal that is smellier than week-old Thanksgiving turkey. More on that in a moment.

First, let me bring you up to speed on Desiree Rogers’s tastes, White House qualifications, and desires.

Tastes: Desiree likes to party. White House qualifications: She’s rolling in dough. Desires: She loves getting her picture taken in high-fashion magazines. Frequently with senior White House advisor and Chicago gal pal Valerie Jarrett or a favorite designer by her side:

Which all helps explain why the camera hog was striking a pose at the front door of the State Dinner last week instead of doing her job and overseeing the event behind the scenes. Via Newsweek:

The White House staff member whose job was to supervise the guest list for state dinners and clear invitees into the events says she was stripped of most of her responsibilities earlier this year, prompting her to resign last June.

The account of Cathy Hargraves, who formerly served as White House “assistant for arrangements,” raises new questions about whether changes that she says were made by President Obama’s social secretary, Desiree Rogers, may have contributed to the security lapses that permitted Virginia socialites Michele and Tareq Salahi to crash the state dinner for India’s prime minister last week and get themselves photographed with the president.

Hargraves tells Declassified in an exclusive interview that, while she had originally been hired as a White House political appointee in 2001, she landed a new position on the White House residence staff in 2006 and was specifically detailed to the social office to work on state dinners.

Her job duties included overseeing the invitations for guests at state dinners and keeping track of RSVPs, she says. On the evening of state dinners, she says, she physically stood at the East Gate portico entrance and greeted each of the guests as they arrived, checking their names off a computerized printout of those who had been invited.

But when she met with Rogers last February and went over her job responsibilities, she says, the new social secretary told her, “We don’t feel we have a need for that anymore.” Rogers’s explanation, according to Hargraves: “In these economic times, I don’t think we’re going to have very many lavish expensive dinners. It wouldn’t look very good.”

Pure, unadulterated B.S.

Diva Rogers clearly wanted to get rid of the Bush-era carry-over — and she obnoxiously invoked fiscal restraint to rationalize cutting corners on security.

Guess what, babe? This doesn’t look very good:

During President George W. Bush’s administration, it was standard procedure to have someone from the White House social office at the gate for state dinners and other events with large groups of visitors, according to a former senior Bush aide who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to be seen as criticizing the Obama White House.

The social office is most knowledgeable about the guest list and could have been called in case of any uncertainty, this official said…White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, asked by The Associated Press on Thursday whether personnel from her office were at the checkpoint said, “We were not.”

As I noted in Chapter 2 of Culture of Corruption, Rogers sees herself not merely as a party planner, but as the overseer of the White House “strategy for events.” While she pays lip service to exercising restraint in Washington (“As we go through our struggle, there is a need to be prudent”), Rogers defended the lavish “Camelot” scene that quickly became an Obama hallmark in the economically-stressed first 100 days. The celebrity-filled cocktail nights and conga lines are a means to end, she explained to National Public Radio:

“My belief is that we don’t always get everything accomplished over a meeting table,”” Rogers says. “Many times it’s over cocktails, it’s over dinner and so the other piece to our work will be what kind of events can we create?”

Fittingly, Ms. Rogers’ personal motto is laissez les bon temps rouler: Let the good times roll. With her savvy fundraising skills, she helped keep Team Obama rolling in dough during the 2008 presidential campaign. According to left-wing watchdog Public Citizen, Rogers bundled more than $200,000 for Obama and contributed $28,500 to committees supporting her good friend. A Harvard MBA and former Allstate Financial executive, Rogers spent 2004 to -2008 as head of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, a $1.1 billion natural gas utility in Chicago. During her tenure, the utility’s parent company was sued for artificially inflating gas prices; a settlement with Illinois regulators required the firm to refund $100 million to consumers. Separate actions resulted in fines of $500,000 for a backlog of overdue meter safety inspections and $1 million for failing to properly inspect distribution pipes. In April 2009, financial disclosure forms revealed that Rogers “collected more than $1 million for her work as president of two gas companies for part of 2008. Later, she earned a $350,000 salary from Allstate Financial as president of its social-networking division, and $150,000 in board fees from Equity Residential, a real-estate investment trust in which she also holds at least $250,000 in stock.”

Rogers has known Mr. and Mrs. O for more than a decade. How did they meet? Ivy League connections – —the same connections that Michelle Obama griped would keep her “on the periphery.” Rogers’ ex-husband, John W. Rogers, Jr., played basketball with Michelle O’s brother, Craig Robinson, at Princeton. As I’ve mentioned previously, Mr. Rogers also served as a campaign finance bundler for Team Obama. The Rogerses were among 79 top fundraisers who, according to the Washington Post, tapped their personal networks to raise at least $200,000 each. The bundlers recruited a total of more than 27,000 donors to write maximum-limit checks for $2,300 each.

True to their faux populist form, Mrs. Obama has heaped praise on her dear friend Desiree’s “phenomenal job” of creating a “People’s House.” Rogers told Vogue (the magazine of everyday people like Rogers, Jarrett, and Mrs. Obama): “[My purpose] is helping people visualize what the Obama presidency is about, the feelings Americans voted for—inclusion, transparency, embracing people you might never otherwise learn about—and also translating the splendor, that sweetness, that comfort of the White House to everyone.”

“Embracing people you might never otherwise learn about.” Well, that’s certainly one way to describe the Crashergate fiasco!

While members of Congress focus their ire on the crashers and the Secret Service becomes a scapegoat, the sunlight needs to be directed once again at Barack Obama himself and the Chicago team embedded in the East Wing and West Wing that puts garish self-service above competent public service.

Valerie Jarrett suffered no consequences after her Van Jones and Obama-lympics fiascos. Neither, alas, will the White House socialite who allowed the undocumented visitors and their intruding reality TV camera crew to party hardy in the “People’s House” uninvited. The negligence of the president’s closest personnel is a reflection of, not a departure from, the White House governing stylebook.

Besides, as you well know: Barack Obama could no more disown his Windy City moneybag pals Desiree and John Rogers than he could disown his own teleprompter.

Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett won’t let him.

***

Cover girl Desiree Rogers bragging to the WSJ magazine: “We have the best brand on earth — the Obama brand…Our possibilities are endless.”

***

Update: The House homeland security panel says it will hold a hearing on Crashgate. More from The Hill.

Question Desiree Rogers.

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Categories: Desiree Rogers, Homeland Security

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