PAC woman: Jorgensen's high road back
A biography of Marie Antoinette lies on Connie Jorgensen's coffee table. Is she reading it because, like the French queen, she feels she's about to be guillotined?
Mitch Van Yahres' former legislative aide's answer is far less dramatic. "I like biographies," she says. The fact that her boss found himself a target of an investigation in his last weeks in office because of a fundraiser Jorgensen helped organize has nothing to do with it.
Plus she's now unemployed and has more time to read in between looking for a job.
But Jorgensen does have an almost– dare we say?– let-them-eat-cake attitude about the Republican-backed investigation, rolling her eyes when asked about it. "It's their right to ask the question," she says. "We're confident we did nothing wrong. "
The event was a beer-tasting fundraiser for the Democratic "Road Back PAC" last February 8 at Starr Hill. It's a no-no for legislators to raise money while the General Assembly is in session. Van Yahres founded the PAC and is an ex-officio member of the board, but had nothing to do with the fundraiser, nor did he get any of the money, says Jorgensen. "We checked out what we needed to do," she says, "before we did it."
Jorgensen has been in Richmond for the General Assembly since she was hired by Van Yahres in 1999, and she was there January 11 when this year's session began– this time as a lobbyist. That makes two in the family: her husband, Ben Greenburg, lobbies for Planned Parenthood.
She was a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood before she worked for Van Yahres, but didn't know Greenburg then. "He lobbied me– and then married me," she laughs. The couple tied the knot last April.
The South Dakota/Minnesota-raised Jorgensen, who grew up watching Walter Cronkite deliver the news of the tumultuous late '60s/early '70s , has always had a political bent. "By the time I graduated from high school, Watergate was going on," she reminisces. And she volunteered for George McGovern's last successful Senate campaign before joining the Air Force.
Back in civilian life, she focused on politics, foreign affairs, and public policy. Jorgensen teaches a class on government at Piedmont Virginia Community College that she peppers with real-life experience from her years at the General Assembly.
"I always had this 'good government' streak in me aside from politics," she says, crediting Van Yahres with teaching her how government can work for its citizens. "I believe in government," she declares. "I think government can do good things."
Why here? I came to UVA in 1992 to attend graduate school, and after four years in Charlottesville, I couldn't bring myself to leave.
What's worst about living here? I can't think of anything.
Favorite hangout? The Downtown Mall
Most overrated virtue? Tidiness
People would be surprised to know: I once spent two months training to be a private investigator. I had to quit because I couldn't get over the feeling that it was all none of my business.
What would you change about yourself? I'd be less blunt.
Proudest accomplishment? Anytime I see one of my PVCC government students involved in politics
People find most annoying about you: I tend to be a wee bit bossy.
Whom do you admire? Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Favorite book? Anna Karenina
Subject that causes you to rant? Politicians who are more concerned with their image (or just defeating the other side) than with doing the right thing
Biggest 21st-century thrill? So much information available at your fingertips
Biggest 21st-century creep out? Lack of privacy caused by the biggest 21st-century thrill
What do you drive? 1997 Mazda 626
In your car CD player right now: It's all NPR all the time.
Next journey? Probably to South Dakota to visit my family
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I've always been a perfect angel.
Regret: The number of people I've lost touch with over the years
Favorite comfort food: Chocolate chip ice cream
Always in your refrigerator: Diet A&W Root Beer
Must-see TV: Law and Order and, of course, The West Wing
Favorite cartoon: Rocky and Bullwinkle
Describe a perfect day. Any day I can just hang out and relax with my wonderful husband
Walter Mitty fantasy: Being C. J. Cregg from The West Wing
Who'd play you in the movie? Katherine Hepburn (in my dreams, anyway)
Most embarrassing moment? High school– pick a day
Best advice you ever got? Do what you love, the money will follow.
Favorite bumper sticker? God is not a Republican or a Democrat.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO