This story just keeps getting worse and worse, doesn't it? Apparently not only were the members of the C Street House getting their rent subsidized, they were also using their interns for maid services. Why am I not surprised.
Apparently the members of C Street haven't been too happy with Rachel Maddow and her reporting and the attention it's getting them in some of their home town papers and have accused her of attacking their faith and making personal attacks on them.
Jeff Sharlet joined Rachel again to talk about just how luxurious their living quarters at the C Street house are and why their claims that their rent is not being subsidized are just downright false.
MADDOW: But no one‘s complaining about Jerry Moran‘s Bible studying. The complaint is about Jerry Moran‘s rent. About the evidence that he is an elected official, getting his rent subsidized, and he‘s not reporting that subsidy either as income to the IRS or as a gift, like he‘s supposed to to Congress.
It‘s not religion that is at issue here. It is ethics and money. And the threat that‘s at the root of all the rules about ethics and money, which, of course, is corruption. Bible study away, Congressman. Who‘s paying your rent?
In his own defense, Congressman Moran also tried to downplay his living circumstances, telling the “Capital-Journal,” quote, “I have a small bedroom and a bath I share with other people.” He also says his rent is market based, not subsidized, and he says he brought his own bed with him to C Street.
As to the merit of his claim that he is paying what anyone else living in a 12-bedroom, nine bathroom town house close to Capitol Hill with housekeeping services and meal services would pay—as to the merit of that claim, let‘s turn to someone who has actually been inside the house on C Street, Jeff Sharlet. He‘s author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart o American Power.”
Jeff, it‘s nice to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
JEFF SHARLET: Hi, Rachel. Good to talk to you.
MADDOW: I assume that you haven‘t been, and I haven‘t been, neither of us have been in Representative Moran‘s bedroom. But from what you have been—what you‘ve seen and what you‘ve been able to report about the facilities at C Street, do you believe that he and these other members of Congress were really paying market based rent?
SHARLET: Oh, absolutely not. It‘s a beautiful place. And, in fact, you go in, there‘s—as you mentioned, there‘s maid service, there‘s a cook. They‘re hosting diplomatic meetings there. And, you know, they‘re not bringing in ambassadors from around the world to sit on Jerry Moran‘s box spring. It‘s a luxury place.
And the fact is, they know that. If you go back in 2002, Louis Sheldon, a Christian right leader, said, a lot of congressmen don‘t have $1,500 to pay for rent, so, C Street does that for them. For those who are members of the Fellowship, it provides this subsidized housing.
MADDOW: When we talked to Senator Coburn‘s office about this last week, his spokesman defended the C Street rent situation for Senator Coburn by saying, “He hasn‘t received subsidized rent. He pays more than $10,000 a year for a room and bathroom only.”
Now, $10,000 a year works out to like 830 bucks a month, which is still incredibly cheap for a room in a fancy town house with meals and housekeeping. But other people who lived at C Street or who live there now keep saying this, “It‘s just this room. I just have this one room there.” Is it your understanding that they have access to all the common space of this giant mansion, too?
SHARLET: Yes. There‘s a big, beautiful—big screen TV down in the main common space. There‘s a beautiful dining room which is used for hosting formal banquets. There‘s a lovely breakfast nook that is also sort of a conference room. There‘s a beautiful kitchen.
It‘s really a space that almost doubles as a conference center. And also doubles, frankly, as a hangout. For Washington Congressman Zach Wamp, a longtime resident said, this is the place to hang out, to talk policy, to watch sports. It‘s a great place.
I recently spoke to a young woman who—a young evangelical woman thought she was going to do an internship in Washington, found herself recruited into C Street and turning down sheets for John Ensign, and she said, it really sort of galled her that it wasn‘t just those congressmen.
It was also people like Oliver North hanging around, and she was expected to be at their beck and call.
MADDOW: And just to be clear, people who think they‘re getting sort of internships are the people who are providing essentially maid services at no cost to the members of Congress for maintaining these facilities that they live in.
SHARLET: Sure. And there‘s men who are part of The Family who live at the house where I lived for a while called Ivan Walt, who brought over when I went over there. I was expected to be—I was told that my job was to be there as a servant for these congressmen. So, you know, whether Tom Coburn is paying $800 or twice that, that‘s the best bargain in Washington.
MADDOW: Finally, Jeff, any—briefly, any reaction from anybody in The Family that you can report as to this complaint by CREW, the complaint to the IRS by these clergy members in Ohio who are upset about The Family and C Street‘s tax status and ethical status of these members of Congress living there?
SHARLET: Yes, a very puzzling reaction. I managed to get Tim Coe, one of the leaders of the organization on the phone today, I wanted to talk to him about the Ohio pastors‘ complaint. I told I wanted to get his perspective and represent him fairly. His first response was he didn‘t know them from Adam, and then he acknowledged that he had, in fact, try to talk with them despite the fact the Fellowship Foundation‘s official response is they have nothing to do with C Street.
And then he said that he had decided that they were crazy because they expected him to apparently abide by some standard of transparency, to allow a reporter in the room for that conversation—and he said, that‘s just crazy, that he should be expected to be publicly accountable.
MADDOW: While he‘s subsidizing the rent of members of Congress. Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power”—thank you so much for your time, and your just invaluable reporting on this, Jeff. Really appreciate it.
SHARLET: Thank you, Rachel.
Entire transcript available here.