Is Cogen's career finished? Not necessarily, expert says

PORTLAND, Ore. - Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen has landed in some hot water - boiling really - over his admitted affair with a county employee.

His fellow commissioners want him out, but at this point he is determined to keep his job. On Thursday, he made it clear that he has no intention of resigning.

But is Cogen's career effectively over? Will he have a future in politics?

We talked to a public relations expert, Brian Berger, to find out what Cogen's options are at this point. How should Cogen have handled the scandal? Where does he go from here?

Berger said like scandal-scarred politicians before him, Cogen has got to take control of this story. Celebrities and politicians who have fallen from grace can rise again. Whether it's been Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton or Alec Baldwin, eventually they have been embraced again by the public.

"We live in a very forgiving society," Berger said.

Berger said even if Cogen were recalled, he could come back swinging.

"You look at Sam Adams, you look at other people who have survived controversy - absolutely," he said. "(But) he does need to earn the public's trust back."

Berger has numbers to back him up - specifically poll numbers that show former New York governor Eliot Spitzer (an admitted connoisseur of prostitutes) is leading the race for New York City's comptroller.

Berger said Cogen will have to do a bit more talking to get into that kind of position.

"Most times when crises arise, people don't get in front of it," Berger said. "In other words, they let the media shape the story. And that's what's happened here - the media has shaped the story."

Cogen might take a page from Anthony Weiner, who recently called a press conference to let folks know they should expect more scandal. Weiner, by the way, now has a majority of voters saying he deserves a second chance.

The bottom line, said Berger, is that Cogen needs to consider how much he is willing to put forward.

"If you just do the right thing and you're honest and you get out in front it, I think people will forgive you," he said.

Something else that Weiner and Spitzer have going for them is that there was no investigation into whether they misused public funds, which is what Cogen is facing. The result of that criminal investigation into Cogen's activities will definitely play a role in his political future.