By: Aaron Nutting and Brian Sikma
University of Wisconsin records and the White House visitor access log reveal that Professor Joel Rogers of the University of Wisconsin Madison repeatedly traveled to Washington early in President Barack Obama’s first term to offer policy advice to the administration. Rogers is a professor of sociology, political science, and law, and runs the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, a liberal think tank housed in the University’s sociology department.
In addition to his frequent trips to Washington, Rogers has traveled abroad extensively in his position as a professor leading a liberal think tank. According to expense reports Rogers filed with UW Madison, there have been at least six foreign trips in a three-year span. Four of those trips took place during the academic year.
Rogers is an icon of the progressive movement, was named by Newsweek as one of the top 100 Americans most likely to influence politics, and became embroiled in controversy when he used vulgar profanity to describe Republicans. In 2000 Rogers pled guilty/no contest to a drunk driving citation he earned near Madison, Wisconsin. He has alternatively embraced and sought to potentially distance himself from the label of economic socialism.
On January 27, 2009, a mere one week into the Obama presidency, Rogers went to the White House to give “requested policy advice to the Obama Administration,” according to a travel expense report obtained by Media Trackers from the University of Wisconsin. Rogers expensed all taxi rides for the trip, including a taxi that took him from his home in Madison to the Madison airport.
Less than a month later, on February 19, 2009, Rogers made another trip to the White House. The expense report declares the purpose of this trip to be “to meet policy advisors of the Obama Administration to provide requested advice on energy and climate policy.”
Rogers’ expense report for his May 2009 trip to the White House was a bit more specific than previous reports. In addition to attending a conference in Washington on climate change, Rogers had a “visit to the White House to talk to the Office of Public Liaison and Internal Gov’t Affairs about Energy Efficiency.”
The name of the office was changed by President Obama from Office of Public Liaison to the Office of Public Engagement. Led by long-time Obama confidant Valarie Jarrett, the office says its mission is to “create and coordinate opportunities for direct dialogue between the Obama Administration and the American public, while bringing new voices to the table and ensuring that everyone can participate and inform the work of the President.”
Jarrett, who is from Chicago, was once a director for The Joyce Foundation. Rogers’ Center on Wisconsin Strategy is funded in part by The Joyce Foundation through a segment of UW Madison’s budget.
White House visitor logs reveal another visit by Rogers to the White House on March 2, 2010. This trip was not disclosed in University travel expense reports obtained by Media Trackers. The purpose of the trip and the identity of the people he was meeting with were not shown on the log.
These trips to Washington appear to have been funded or otherwise paid for at least in part by the University of Wisconsin, either out of a dedicated Center on Wisconsin Strategy’s fund – which is managed in the UW budget – or the broader sociology department budget. This stands in contrast to Rogers’ numerous foreign trips, which were paid for by funds from the groups he visited with and conferences he spoke at.
In the middle of March 2009, Rogers traveled to Berlin, Germany to speak at a conference hosted by WZB, a social research center funded by the German government. Also on that trip, Rogers spoke at event in Koln, Germany and gave an update on “the current political situation in the US.”
Roughly seven months later – during the academic year – Rogers found himself again in Europe. This time he spoke at a conference in Belgium about “Productive Democracy.”
In December of 2010, Rogers again made the trek to Berlin, Germany to speak at another WZB conference.
Shortly after the academic year, in June of 2010, Rogers spoke at a green jobs summit in London, England. The event was hosted by the Institute for Public Policy Research, which bills itself as “the UK’s leading progressive thinktank.” Through its research, IPPR attacks the free market, advocates for universal government-funded childcare, and pushes a number of far-Left ideas.
A little more than two years later, Rogers filed an expense report for a trip he took to Sao Paulo, Brazil to speak at an unidentified conference down there.
In April of this year, Rogers flew to Maryland to meet with the Secretary of State there, a Democrat, and the Director of Policy for Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who is also a Democrat. Topics of discussion are not noted in the report, and exactly who paid for the trip is not indicated.
Rogers is a well-connected leftist and his travel records show that his trips both across the country and around the world serve to further his efforts as an evangelist of the progressive, big government gospel. His audiences include notable leaders and influential individuals, and his influence extends from the confines of his radical idea mill at the University of Wisconsin to the offices of the White House.
UW Madison expense reports showing Rogers’ travel: rogers travel doc1