It’s fair to say that of Kentucky’s entire Congressional delegation, I was not expecting Rep. Hal Rogers to be the only one to throw his legacy to the winds and his face onto the “Wall of Sedition.” That’s the helpful graphic from the New York Times showing all 147 Republicans who voted to overturn election results despite an attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday incited by the mad king President Trump.
Unlike Sen. Rand Paul or Rep. Thomas Massie, Rogers is not a flamethrower, content to quietly oversee his various and lucrative fiefdoms in southeastern Kentucky, including the Taj MaHal, otherwise known as the Center for Rural Development, and a new four-year university he wrangled down in Somerset. Unlike Rep. Jamie Comer, we hadn’t even heard him openly question Joe Biden’s win.
Sure, his now bright-red district vastly favors Trump, but at the ripe old age of 83, is he really that scared of getting a primary opponent? (There should really be a mandatory retirement age in Congress but that’s another column.) Wouldn’t it be better to lose with your legacy and conscience intact? Rogers, who’s been in office since 1981, made the decision to vote against accepting the Arizona results even after he had to take cover from rioters incited by President Trump who invaded the U.S. Capitol like a radical ragtag army, ending in the deaths of at least four people. You can’t denounce violence after ignoring its nascent threat for the past four years.
“In fact, I received hundreds of calls and emails from people across southern and eastern Kentucky questioning the integrity of the presidential election in other states,” Rogers said in a statement. “Every American should have confidence in knowing that every fair vote is accurately counted.
The mob violence was enough to change several legislators’ minds, but not, it seems, Rogers. Then again, Rogers and his family do have a lot to lose if he were to leave Congress. Rogers is the poster child for “the swamp,” the kind of political corruption that Trump swore to end but instead propagated. Numerous stories over the years have documented Rogers’ legal graft and corruption. In only the most recent, by my colleague John Cheves, his PAC pays his wife $3,000 a month for “event planning.”
In addition, Cheves wrote: “His re-election campaign committee, called Hal Rogers for Congress, had spent $642,563 as of June 30. Among its expenditures this election cycle: $18,000 so far for Tracy Rogers, the congressman’s daughter-in-law, and $36,000 so far for Bob Mitchell, his longtime friend and former district director who retired from Rogers’ office in 2012.”
In 2011, the Center for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found that Rogers, also known as the “Prince of Pork,” the longtime chair of the House Appropriations Committee, had funneled more than $236 million in federal funds since 2000 to a web of nonprofit groups he created in Kentucky, benefiting him, his family, and his associates.
First of all, Rogers seems to have plenty of money to take on a primary opponent. But he still made a cynical decision to protect his own little Kentucky swamp, based not on facts he knew to be true but on lies his constituents have been fed by Trump, Fox News, and toxic social media feeds.
That constant gaslighting, lying, and deceit — that Republicans like Rogers feel compelled to bow to — has affected Trump loyalists’ brains. Trump didn’t drain the swamp, he filled it. There was no widespread election fraud. Antifa members did not pretend to be Trump supporters to sack the Capitol. Let’s stop giving these ideas oxygen and stop giving their proponents our votes.
This is why the Kentucky Democratic Party is right to call for Rogers’ resignation. He should lose his seat, along with every member who voted with him. It’s why Trump should be impeached or removed by the 25th amendment. Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz should be removed under Section 3 of the 14th amendment.
We need to break the fever dream of alternative facts, show people there are consequences for promoting them, and get our government back to its normal levels of dysfunction. Hal Rogers is one tiny piece of this terrible movement that ended with a mob in the U.S. Capitol for the first time since 1814. But if we don’t stop it now, it will happen again all too soon.
Written by Linda Blackford. Cross-posted with permission from the Herald-Leader.