There’s something ironically hilarious about Senator Byron Dorgan – “the old populist, man of the people” as the reader who emailed me the link described – showing off his McLean, Virginia mansion to Home & Design, “The magazine of architecture and fine interiors.”
“Of course he waited to open his doors until after leaving office,” the reader emails. Indeed, it would have been unseemly for Dorgan to show off these posh digs while simultaneously claiming, as his “official” residence, a dumpy apartment in a Bismarck complex owned by his former colleague Kent Conrad (who claimed, as his official residence, the apartment across the hall).
Anyway, Dorgan and his wife live in a beautiful home now. The pictures are fantastic, as is the article. It’s all about Dorgan’s “fabulous personal style,” and “a continuous color palette of sage, terracotta and warm yellows and conjuring a look that would give the interiors a ‘European edge’.”
But it’s all rather incongruous to the persona Dorgan claimed while serving in the Senate.
Remember when North Dakota Democrats were railing against former Congressman Rick Berg for being one of the wealthiest members of Congress? Senator Heidi Heitkamp made a big stink about it during her campaign against Berg last year.
Well here’s the thing: Rick Berg made his fortune after a life time in the private sector. He has started businesses, made investments, took risks and reaped rewards all in the private sector. He’s a wealthy man now because he made himself wealthy.
Byron Dorgan, on the other hand, spent a lifetime in public office – from being appointed North Dakota Tax Commissioner in 1969 to retiring from the US Senate in 2010 – and made his fortune while working in government.
I ask you, which is the more unseemly? An entrepreneur like Rick Berg making his wealth in the private sector, or a lifetime politician like Byron Dorgan getting rich while serving the public?
Update: A reader suggests that it’s income from Dorgan’s wife that has made them rich, not necessarily his income. That’s fair, Kimberly Dorgan does rake it in. According to the IRS form 990 filed by her employer (see below), the American Council of Life Insurers, Mrs. Dorgan earned nearly $800,000 in salary and other compensation in 2011.
Of course, Mrs. Dorgan’s earning potential is helped along in no small part by the fact that her husband was, until 2010, serving in the US Senate.