If you had thought that with the election of the political outsider Donald Trump the old Oligarchy was at long last losing its grip on the reins of power, then the election of Rodney Frelinghuysen to be the new Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee should change your mind.
Old Rodders, as his bestest mates doubtless call him, is a member of a family long prominent in New Jersey politics, one which was ranked the seventh greatest American political dynasty by Stephen Hess, senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institute and author of “America’s Political Dynasties”.
This would place his family between the Adamses and the Bushes in terms of family or oligarchical control over the years. There have been six Senators in this family. Rodney’s father, Peter Frelinghuysen Jr, served as the U.S. Representative from New Jersey;s 5th congressional district from 1953 to 1975, representing much of the same area Rodney does today. Rodney is the great-great-grandson of Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, who was a U.S. Senator for New Jersey and later US Secretary of State in the administration of President Chester Arthur. His great-great-great-uncle, was the adoptive father of Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen. This Theodore Frelinghuysen was a U.S. Senator for New Jersey, who then served as president of both New York University and rutgers College, and was the unsucessful vice presidential running mate of Henry Clay on the Whig ticket in the presidential racway back in 1844. Frelinghuysen’s great-great-great-great-grandfather another Frederick Frelinghuysen was one of the framers of the first Constitution of New Jersey, and also a U.S. Senator for New Jersey, as well as serving as a soldier in the American Revolutionary War..[
Aside from the Frelinghuysen name, he is is also a great-great-great-grandson of Peter Ballantine founder of Ballantine Brewery in Newark. And if you are looking for more old money on his mother’s side, he is a great-great-grandson of William Proctor, co-founder of Proctor & Gamble.
Rodney is old, old money and is reckoned to be the 9th most wealthy man in the house with an estimated personal value of $20 to $65 million.
The family have never been spectacular, never ones for the front page, or the gossip column, never jet set types. The old oligarch families know how to last the long race. Rodney has been in the House now for twenty two years. Rodney is never noted for being flash or ostentatious, rather he makes a thing of sporting a varied selection of old suits and a collection of truly antiquated and battered ties. They get by though, these old families, through the age old political practise nowadays called “earmarking”. A very American term this, which sounds so much nicer than “pork barrel politics”, it is simply the practise of diverting as much federal cash as possible into your constituency even if it might be better spent elsewhere.
We can see the first elements of Rodney dipping into this $1 Trillion pot with his avowed intention to push for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson river. As he so aptly puts it “I think we need to be selfish for the Northeast here”.
Expect more of the same as the oligarchy move into position to take back the Presidency come 2020.
Copyright David Macadam 2017