Joe M. Rodgers, an Alabama native who served as ambassador to France from 1985 to 1989, died of cancer recently in Nashville. He was 75.
But the most fascinating part of the Rodgers story is that it provides conclusive evidence that former President Ronald Reagan committed a federal crime.
To understand how Reagan committed a federal crime, you have to know a thing or two about the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
Siegelman, you might recall, was indicted and convicted because he accepted a campaign contribution from former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and then appointed Scrushy to a hospital-oversight board, a board upon which Scrushy had served under three previous governors.
Under the George W. Bush Justice Department, this transaction involving a Democratic governor in a deep red state was deemed "bribery" and "mail/wire fraud." Siegelman and Scrushy are appealing their convictions, and Scrushy remains in federal prison.
But what do we learn about the relationship between Joe M. Rodgers and Ronald Reagan? Rodgers was national finance chairman for Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. In other words, Rodgers gave, and raised, boatloads of money for Reagan's campaign--far more, apparently, than Richard Scrushy ever dreamed of giving to Don Siegelman.
Here's how nashvillepost.com put it:
Reagan lost the nomination (in 1976), but Rodgers continued to be one of his major supporters and served as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1978 to 1980. The committee raised some $75 million during that time, dramatically increasing its donor base.
After Reagan took office in 1981, he appointed Rodgers to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He continued to raise funds for a variety of GOP-related causes, and in 1984 he served as finance chief for the successful Reagan-Bush re-election campaign.
In 1985, Reagan rewarded Rodgers by naming him U.S. ambassador to France for a four-year term. He and wife Honey settled into their official residence in Paris, a mansion dating from 1852 with 25-foot ceilings in its reception rooms and two acres of gardens. They kept a supply of GooGoo Clusters on hand as a Nashville treat to share with their diplomatic guests.
His wife was named "Honey"! And they gave GooGoo Clusters to their diplomatic guests! How quaint!
I wonder if Richard Scrushy provides GooGoo Clusters for his fellow inmates at a federal prison in Texas.
Let's review briefly: Rodgers helped enrich Reagan's campaign by at least $75 million. And he was "rewarded" with multiple plum appointments.
That ambassadorship to France sounds like a pretty sweet gig, doesn't it? Rodgers and his wife resided in an 1852 mansion with 25-foot ceilings and two acres of gardens. Gosh, they were "slumdog millionnaires" long before the term was cool.
Based on the Siegelman prosecution, Reagan and Rodgers clearly committed massive federal crimes. But do you think they ever broke a sweat about the possibility of being indicted? I doubt it.
And now they've gone to that great Teflon mansion in the sky, while Scrushy sits in a federal prison and Don Siegelman sweats out an appeal before the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeal in Atlanta.
Seems like every time we turn around, Republicans are wanting to name a building for Ronald Reagan. Isn't it interesting that they hold a federal criminal in such high regard?