(AANEWS) - A mushrooming scandal over members of the U.S. congress and a shadowy religious "fellowship"based in Washington, DC is attracting more news coverage and questions, and could lead to calls that the House Ethics Committee open an immediate investigation.
The story began when Sen. John Ensign admitted to having an extramarital affair with a former aide. What made the tabloid aspect more salacious, though, was that Ensign -- a strong crusader against separation of church and state -- is linked to a religious-right
group that maintains an anonymous enclave in Washington, DC where a number of key politicians, including Sen. Ensign, reside while congress is in session. Dubbed "the family" or "the Fellowship," the unmarked building is also the venue for constant prayer, bible meetings, and now, it seems, political strategy brain storming, spin-control and campaign fund raising.
Ensign's hypocrisy and un-masking has focused media attention on the "Christian mafia" and raised questions about what is taking place behind closed doors of the C Street house "in the name of the lord."
-- Just eight days after the Ensign scandal made headlines, a political action committee with ties to the disgraced senator made a $5,000 contribution to the campaign of another "Fellowship" member and resident, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee. Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Andy Sher noted: "Ensign's political action committee, Battle Born PAC, contributed the money on June 24 according to Federal Election Committee records. Wamp's campaign received the contribution on June 29, his Tennessee Registry of Election Finance shows."
One Wamp-connected operative , John Crisp refused to discuss the donation, other than to say that "This is important because of how hard Zach works... for the people of Tennessee."
Others weren't so sure. State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester questioned the timing and circumstances, telling reporters: "It would seem to me that if you were running for governor and you were running on a set of moral values that Zach Wamp seems to talk about, you'd be sort of reluctant to receive financial support from an admitted adulterer."
Wamp also reported a $1,000 contribution from the Mint Political Action Committee linked to another religious right partisan, U.S. Sen. Jeff DeMint (R.-SC). "Numerous news accounts" link DeMint to the same C Street enclave as Wamp and Ensign, but the senator's office is now denying this.
-- Somewhat off the radar at present is South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican who is still working through his own imbroglio involving an adulterous affair with a South American woman. Sanford is a member of the "Fellowship" and reportedly received "spiritual counseling" at the C Street house. We also should not forget about US Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) now charged by his estranged wife with having an affair while residing at the "Fellowship" residence.
-- How far will "Fellowship" residents and members go in avoiding media scrutiny, or even official inquiries by congress? One disturbing indicator is a July 22 piece on the Buzzflash web blog by Mark Karlin, referring to material unearthed by Jeff Sharlet,
author of "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power." The latter writes:
Family leaders consider their political network to be Christ's avant garde, an elite that transcends not just conventional morality but also earthly laws regulating lobbying. In the Family's early days, they debated registering as "a lobby for God's Kingdom." Instead, founder Abraham Vereide decided that the group could be more effective by working personally with politicians. "The more invisible you can make your organization," Vereide's successor, current leader Doug Coe preaches, "the more influence you can have." That's true -- which is why we have laws requiring lobbyists to identify themselves as such.
But David Coe, Doug Coe's son and heir apparent, calls himself simply a friend to men such as John Ensign, whom he guided through the coverup of his affair. I met the younger Coe when I lived for several weeks as a member of the Family. He's a surprising source of counsel, spiritual or otherwise. Attempting to explain what it means to be chosen for leadership like King David was -- or Mark Sanford, according to his own estimate -- he asked a young man who'd put himself, body and soul, under the Family's authority, "Let's say I hear you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?" The man guessed that Coe would probably think that he was a monster. "No," answered Coe, "I wouldn't." Why? Because, as a member of the Family, he's among what Family leaders refer to as the "new chosen." If you're chosen, the normal rules don't apply.
It's a statement that should concerns about transparency on C Street. Will "Fellowship" members charged with inappropriate behavior cover for each other? If so , the term "Christian mafia" becomes most appropriate given the "code of silence" or "omerta"
being practiced on C Street.
-- There are reports that some "Fellowship" operatives in high places are now seeking cover amidst the widening scandal and public attention. According to the Detroit News, for instance, U.S. Rep.Bart Stupak now claims that "he does little more than sleep in a room he rents there."
Another "Fellowship" member, Rep. Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania (a member of the Congressional "Values" Coalition that promotes religious right legislation on Capitol Hill) issued a statement that he does not reside at the C Street lair.
For the public, all of this must raise concerns about what is taking place behind the doors at the C Street retreat and residence. Were powerful individuals like these representatives linked in such intimate and peculiar fashion to, say, a corporate interest
group or international mission, there would be an outcry for an immediate congressional investigation. The C Street residence, however, enjoys the mantle of religious probity. Its members do not seem to be living up to that standard.
Links to the C Street Scandal:
Tennessee: Wamp took campaign money from Nevada's Ensign State campaign finance records show U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., accepted a $5,000 contribution from U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who lives in a Capitol Hill Christian fellowship house with Mr. Wamp. The contribution came 13 days after Sen. Ensign admitted to the world he had had an affair with a former staffer. Sen. Ensign's political action committee, Battle Born PAC, contributed the money on June 24, according to Federal Election Commission records. Rep. Wamp reported receiving the contribution to his gubernatorial campaign on June 29, according to his Tennessee Registry of Election Finance disclosure.
"C Street" Cabal of Anti-Democracy Fundamentalist Senators and Reps Wouldn't Turn Over Child Rapist Among Them to Police? Kudos to Rachel Maddow for latching on to the captivating and chilling story about not just the lascivious and potentially illegal activities of some of the "C Street" Family, but -- more importantly -- focusing on their belief that they are chosen by God to lead and infiltrate our government. And she hasn't stopped pursuing this startling story, defying the normal news cycle of a nano-second of coverage unless it's Michael Jackson's death or a blonde white girl disappearing in Aruba.
What gets lost in the disgusting details of Ensign's adulterous affair, Mark Sanford's (an associate member of the Family) lust for an Argentine, and former Congressman Chip Pickering's adulterous bonking on-site at the C Street "Christian fellowship house" is
something that Maddow has repeatedly come back to: these men don't believe they are responsible to moral or governmental laws. If they deviate from the "righteous path," God is only testing their strength, because they are the ones divinely chosen to lead -- and it is weakness to succumb to remorse about one's "misbehavior."
That is why Mark Sanford said he won't resign and compared himselfto King David, who slept adulterously with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed.