If you Google some combination of “Mike Rogers,” “Kristi Rogers” and “conflict of interest,” the results will include several websites that carry a version of a claim that the firm that employs Kristi Rogers stands to gain monetarily from cybersecurity legislation ardently pushed by her husband, a high-profile congressman who represents Livingston County in the U.S. House of Representatives.
There are two things misleading about the search results.
First, they are all relying solely on a single blog, called Techdirt, in which the author claims, “Oh, Look, Rep. Mike Rogers Wife Stands to Benefit Greatly from CISPA Passing.” The claim is generally repeated as gospel without any examination by those reposting it.
Which is unfortunate, because the second problem with the search results is that the original article makes a claim its author cannot substantiate.
Unlike other media outlets that ran with the claim — or unquestionably linked to the site — we dug into the story, which included an interview with the Techdirt poster, Mike Masnick.
Mansick, as it turns out, has nothing to substantiate his claim that Kristi Rogers stands to benefit greatly — or at all — from CISPA, which stands for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. In an interview with us, Mansick — a big opponent of the proposed law — maintained that there must be a conflict and he felt justified in raising the issue.
There are many legitimate reasons someone might oppose the cybersecurity law. The prospect of a government probing into the privacy of American lives has been brought into focus by the revelation that the government is routinely grabbing phone calls and email data — and by last week’s blockbuster news that the National Security Agency erroneously and unconstitutionally scooped up annually as many as 56,000 emails and other communications by Americans not connected to terrorism.
And there is profit in selling fear. There are firms that can make big money — and politicians who can fatten their campaign accounts — by exploiting national security issues.
But Masnick and Techdirt showed no such connection with Kristi Rogers, a successful Michigan native who has carved out a successful career path in Washington, D.C., where she is now managing director of federal government affairs and public policy for Manatt, Phelps and Phillips LLP. Techdirt’s accusations focus on her prior job, when she was president and CEO of Aegis Defense Services LLC, which provides physical security services, often in hostile territories.
Techdirt made an illogical connection between Aegis and the CISPA bill, a mistake belatedly conceded by a Lansing City Pulse magazine columnist who ran a correction that noted that Aegis does not provide cybersecurity services.
That columnist, though, still says he is worried about how Kristi Rogers’ career could overlap with that of her legislative husband. That, too, seems to be the opinion of Techdirt’s Mansick, who maintains that there just must be a conflict here — even though he was unable to specify one in our interview.
Both Mike and Kristi Rogers are high-powered, successful people centered in Washington, where the hometown industry is federal legislation — those who write the laws, enforce them, interpret them and influence them. Making sure that there are sufficient safeguards against conflicts is appropriate. But allegations need to carry more weight than the observation that both people in a marriage are successful.
Jared Young, a former colleague of Kristi Rogers, made the point that it is folly to forbid more than one family member from working directly or indirectly in government circles.
“If that were the case,” he said, there would be a whole lot of congressional relatives that would be out of work.”