Desiree Rogers is stepping down as White House social secretary, an Obama administration official said today.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not say why Rogers is leaving the administration. An official White House comment was expected later today.
Rogers, the first African American to be White House social secretary, sometimes found herself in the Washington political cross hairs during her tenure.
The most high-profile controversy involved a security lapse that allowed gate-crashers into a White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November.
The Secret Service took the brunt of the blame, but a key Republican threatened to subpoena Rogers over questions of whether her office ignored protocol for such events and may have contributed to the breach.
White House observers also noted that Rogers took a seat at the state dinner though it's rare for social secretaries to do so. Known for attracting personal publicity in what tends to be a low-profile position, Rogers was featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines.
Rogers was part of the cadre of Chicagoans who were brought to Washington by President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, after his victory in November 2008.
A native of New Orleans, Rogers came to Chicago by way of Wellesley College, a Harvard MBA and a job in operations at AT&T. After marrying John Rogers Jr., founder of multibillion-dollar Ariel Capital Management, she managed newsstand operations for the Levy Corp. and ran a firm that operated museum retail stores. (Desiree and John Rogers have been divorced for a decade.)
When Republican Jim Edgar was elected governor in 1990, he chose Desiree Rogers as Illinois' lottery director.
She had other GOP links as well. John Rogers' mother, Jewel LaFontant-Mankarious, was deputy solicitor general in the Nixon administration and an ambassador-at-large under President George H.W. Bush. In 1992, Desiree Rogers was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention.
At the lottery, Rogers earned a reputation as driven and self-confident. She launched new games and gained celebrity appearing often on television as the face of the lottery. In 1997, she joined Peoples Gas.
When Rogers was president of Peoples from 2004 to 2008, the utility was sued by the city and state for "massive fraud" linked to the Enron scandal that allegedly led to widespread customer overcharges. The scheme pre-dated Rogers' term at the company's helm, but stonewalling of the investigation allegedly continued after she took over. Peoples agreed to a record $196 million in refunds.
Rogers left Peoples last year, briefly working on a social networking initiative for Allstate Insurance before joining the Obama administration.
When she was chosen as social secretary, Rogers told the Tribune: "This is the perfect combination of some of the skill sets that I have. I don't think it can get much better than this."
White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers steps down
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