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July 31st, 2013 AARON MESH | Cover Story
 

Boys Behaving Badly

How Cogen followed Adams’ fall.

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Jeff Cogen never wanted Sam Adams’ reputation. He wanted Adams’ job.

Two years ago, Adams was mayor of Portland, hobbled by revelations in 2009 that he had lied about a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old legislative aide named Beau Breedlove. Because of those revelations, Adams decided not to run for re-election.

Cogen, chairman of Multnomah County, spent the summer of 2011 openly flirting with a run for mayor, the only local position that outranked his. Polls and pundits suggested he would waltz into office. 

But Cogen decided not to run—largely, according to sources, because his wife, Lisa Pellegrino, didn’t want him to. 

In hindsight, maybe he should have insisted. 

Two weeks ago, Cogen admitted to a betrayal of his wife and the public that began shortly after he set aside his mayoral ambitions—a nearly two-year extramarital affair with a county health department employee, Sonia Manhas.  

He is now in political exile, his banishment playing out as a sad circus. 

TV cameras repeatedly chase him across a sky bridge to the county parking garage. Public documents undermine his denial that he used county money and his power to arrange trysts with Manhas and advance her career. 

Last Thursday, he begged to keep his job. The four women who sit alongside him on the county commission instead cast a symbolic vote telling him, “Hit the road, Jeff.” 

Afterward, one of them compared him to Peter Pan.

On his journey to the Island of Lost Boys, Cogen is not alone. He has an unwanted traveling companion: Sam Adams. 

The comparison between the two politicians has become unavoidable, even though Adams and Cogen have so little in common they might have been playing a game of good cop/bad cop. 

Adams grew up dirt poor and gay on the Oregon Coast, learning the hard way to pre-emptively claw at opponents in his rise to the top of City Hall. Cogen was raised in relative privilege in Miami, and used copious charm (sprinkled with doses of righteous liberal indignation) to secure nearly universal popularity.

They share only two things: a sex scandal. And political suicide. 

Cogen joins Adams on a dirty laundry list—from U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood to Congressman David Wu—of Oregon’s politically elite men behaving like tumescent teens. (Neil Goldschmidt’s repeated rape of a teenage babysitter is in an entirely different category.)

And like Adams’, Cogen’s career is over. 

It may take the remaining year and a half of his term for Cogen to realize this; public performances this month suggest he is still in deep denial. But his shot at re-election is gone—and so, it would appear, are his ambitions for higher office, which at one point stretched as far as the governor’s mansion.

This may seem unfair. After all, nothing either Cogen or Adams did rises to the depravity of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner—who faces charges of putting women in headlocks to force kisses on them—or serial dick-pic sender Anthony Weiner. Carlos Danger does not have a Portland address. 

By comparison, Cogen’s kink is downright vanilla: two consenting adults using their afternoons to sleep with someone other than their spouses.

But, in fact, a fair assessment shows Cogen’s sins are more damnable than Adams’. Doing favors for an employee you really, really like—while having sex with her—is ultimately worse than putting the moves on someone 25 years younger. 

Like it or not, Cogen and Adams are now forever linked. 

Below, WW lays out timelines for both their scandals. The timelines show eerie parallels, repetitions and intersections—and many of the same characters lurking in the wings. 

It also offers a preview of Cogen’s upcoming voyage into the sunset.

Move your mouse over the right side of the entries below to make the scrolling arrows appear. Click the arrows to scroll through the two timelines for Jeff Cogen and Sam Adams's political career and scandals (or use your mouse to drag the timelines below the entries.) On phones, simply swipe through the timelines. 

To see the timelines as they appeared in the print edition, click here and use the Zoom tool to read the text.

Jeff Cogen


Sam Adams


WW interns Sara Sneath, Katie Gilbert and Catalina Gaitan contributed to this timeline.

 
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