By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
During his Assembly term, Rogan had rejected partisan politics to support legislation allowing the medical use of marijuana. He calmed nervous constituents with an explanation few could fault: a moving personal account of a cousin ravaged by a terminal illness, a loved one given six months to live whose only relief from pain and other symptoms came through marijuana. Rogan said that he believed marijuana had helped his cousin live another 10 years.
Then, when a resolution opposing the medical use of marijuana came before Congressman Rogan, he changed his tune and endorsed a resolution unconditionally condemning all medical use of marijuana. Rogan insisted that his vote did not constitute a reversal of his position, but was an indirect swipe at California’s Proposition 215, a medical-use initiative passed by voters in 1996 which, Rogan said, allowed "any medical practitioner to use it . . . That could mean an acupuncturist, or a witch doctor." So much for the sick cousin.
In 1997, when Speaker Gingrich was found to have lied to Congress and committed a variety of ethical breaches for which he was fined $300,000, Rogan defended him on the House floor. ("I rise to urge Mr. Gingrich . . . not to be cowed or intimidated by any lynch mob out to obtain a result disproportionate to the transgression that the House found," Rogan intoned.)
But as the news media and official Washington began to focus on President Clinton’s own peculiar brand of ethical breaches, those same constituents began seeing Judiciary Committee member Rogan on the national news programs, where he never missed an opportunity to assure the nation, in appropriately somber tones, that Clinton would enjoy the presumption of innocence from at least one former prosecutor and judge. But despite such assurances, the folks back home were becoming skeptical. As the rumblings about impeachment grew louder, letters to the editor of the Glendale News-Press, the newspaper of record for Rogan’s hometown, began to take an uncharacteristic turn toward the critical.
Also, in 1998, there had been Barry Gordon — actor, lawyer and former president of the Screen Actors Guild — in whom Rogan finally had found a capable challenger. In campaign speeches all over the district, Gordon had pointed out how, despite the rhetoric of impartiality, Rogan was voting the party line time and again, never once straying from the priorities and preferences of Republican extremists. ("Mr. Gordon can make light of . . . me doing my duty as described by the Constitution," Rogan said, "but I am upholding my oath of office.")
Gordon’s criticism of Rogan’s record — on health care, Social Security, tobacco legislation (after Rogan had claimed that the danger posed to teenagers by cigarettes is comparable to that posed by eating candy or skateboarding) and other issues — had been answered by Rogan’s "revelations" about a campaign photographer who had sued Gordon in small-claims court for $2,250, and about the fact that Gordon had declared bankruptcy in 1995. Gordon responded by saying his debts had been paid, not "discharged," and lambasted Rogan for mailing out copies of the bankruptcy records emblazoned with Gordon’s home address.
As Rogan continued to answer questions and charges related to impeachment with his now-familiar refrain about his duty to find the truth and see justice done, folks seemed ever less inclined to buy it. "At one time, letters faulting Jim Rogan were rare here," says Rick Arthur, executive editor of the Glendale News-Press. "But once they began coming in from constituents unhappy about his role in the impeachment process, it seemed to open the door for criticism on other fronts."
Rogan’s claimed dedication to bipartisan government and integrity, ridiculed as insincere and hypocritical for years by his Democratic opponents, suddenly began to lose credibility with everyday citizens as well. Despite advocating that creationism be taught in public schools, opposing virtually every proposal for limiting access to guns and insisting that legalized abortion is "helping to erode the nation’s moral fabric," Rogan had hitherto convinced the 27th District that he was a moderate who rejected the politics of division, who was dedicated to doing the "right" thing, not just the " thing.
The election came not a moment too soon for Rogan. Although the strain of trying to impeach a president, pass a budget and run for office all at the same time was becoming intense, he squeaked in for a second term, beating Gordon by 4.29 percent, or roughly 6,827 votes out of 140,000. The following month he was back on the House floor.
So how is the 27th District responding to the spectacle of its congressman carrying the rope to the hanging party? According to local officeholders, not well. Scott Wildman, the Democrat elected to the state Assembly seat Rogan left for Congress, maintains, "There’s as much disgust over what he’s doing as there is with the president’s behavior . . . Rogan is pandering to a small number of extremists in his party, and I’m hearing about it throughout the district."
While at least one among the district’s pols — Glendale City Councilman Larry Zarian, host of a conservative radio talk show broadcast from Glendale — claims that the constituents he talks to unreserv edly support Rogan and are demanding impeachment, Burbank City Councilman Bill Wiggins is probably closer in spirit to the district’s Republican moderates. "Everything I hear in the city reflects what I hear about the national polls," says Wiggins. "People don’t want to spend another minute on the impeachment, and they don’t think Jim Rogan should spend any more time on it."