It's really nice to see at least one person in the media looking into the activities at the C-Street House by The Family as Rachel Maddow has done. She follows up on the previous show's reporting and continues to ask, who's paying Bart Stupak's rent? She talks to Rev. Eric Williams who along with "12 other pastors have filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service challenging C Street‘s tax-exempt status".
MADDOW: In making a name for himself, though, Mr. Stupak has opened himself up to some questions about who he is and where he‘s coming from. Last night on this show, we talked about Bart Stupak‘s long-time Washington, D.C. residence. It‘s an 8,000 square foot, 12-bedroom mansion called C Street. C Street is reportedly run by a secretive religious group called The Fellowship or The Family.
And the members of Congress who live at C Street reportedly pay the paltry sum of $600 a month for rent—which is a sweetheart deal and is pretty clearly way below market value for that area. And that raises the question: who subsidizes the rent that Bart Stupak and those other congressmen pay—or paid?
Today, Mr. Stupak‘s office responded to our questions by informing us that Mr. Stupak moved out of C Street at the end of December. They provided us with a letter that he sent his constituents upon doing so. But they have, so far, declined to answer our questions about how much Mr. Stupak paid in rent, who he paid that rent to, and who subsidized his rent if anyone.
We have looked into it on our own, because we couldn‘t get answers from them. And tonight, we have some big news to report in terms of who Mr. Stupak seems to have been paying.
With all of the controversies swirling around C Street in recent months, the secretive religious group, The Family, has attempted to distance itself from that $1.8 million townhouse. The Family now claims it has absolutely nothing to do with C Street. The president of The Fellowship which is, again, also known as The Family talked to the “Columbus Dispatch” about it just last week.
Quoting from “The Dispatch”: Richard Carver, the president of the Fellowship Foundation, said “his charitable organization does not own the C Street Center and has no control over its policy. He said he does not know who owns or runs the center. Quote, ‘It is simply not a part of anything we do.‘”
So, according to The Fellowship, they have nothing to do with C Street nothing. They don‘t even know who runs C Street.
Well, today, we were able to obtain what appears to be the official deed to the C Street house. It‘s a deed that is dated September 23rd, 2009. It‘s a deed that appears to change the ownership of the property from a group called Youth With A Mission to an organization called C Street Center Incorporated. Signing on behalf of C Street Center Incorporated is that group‘s secretary, Marty B. Sherman.
Who‘s Marty B. Sherman? Well, here‘s the 2008 tax filing of the Fellowship Foundation, again, or The Family. Right there listed on page seven, hey, wouldn‘t you know, Marty Sherman, associate.
So, The Family claims they have nothing to do with C Street and yet one of their associates is the person who‘s listed on the deed to C Street. The mystery deepens.
Now, you know, The Family is known to be a very secretive group. And one of the things we noted as being a little weird in our coverage of this last night was that Bart Stupak keeps going out of his way to say that he‘s never signed an oath of secrecy around C Street. And, indeed, in a letter to his constituents that his office he gave to us today, he reiterates, quote, “I have never been asked to sign a contract or oath of secrecy concerning C Street or its residents.” Why does he keep bringing this up?
It turns that not that long ago, when talking about C Street to the press, Bart Stupak told “The Los Angeles Times” that he kind of did abide by a code of secrecy when it came to C Street and The Family. His quote to “The L.A. Times” when they asked him about C Street was this, quote, “We sort of don‘t talk to the press about the house.”
The reason this is important is because Bart Stupak continues to deny having anything at all to do with a secretive religious group, The Family. But check this out. In 2002, when Bart Stupak was living at C Street—he‘s lived there for years—when he was living there in 2002, an associate of The Family described for the press the arrangement that The Family had with the members of Congress who have lived at that house.
And this is how The Family described it. Are you ready? Quote, “A lot of men don‘t have an extra $1,500 to rent an apartment. So, The Fellowship house does that for those who are part of The Fellowship.” “The L.A. Times” noting that rent is $600 per month h for each resident.
So the questions remain tonight. Was Bart Stupak paying The Family rent to live at C Street? Was The Family subsidizing Mr. Stupak‘s rent which seems to have been well below market rate? Why would The Family be subsidizing Stupak‘s rent if he wasn‘t, as he says, a member of the group, when The Family admits that they subsidize rent for their members? And why exactly is The Family claiming to have no ties to the house when tax and property records indicate that it clearly does?
Bottom line here, as Bart Stupak tries to shut down health reform for an anti-abortion stunt that won‘t succeed but will make him famous, who‘s been paying Bart Stupak‘s rent in Washington all these years? Has he reported it? And why won‘t he answer questions about it?
Joining us is now is the Reverend Eric Williams, senior pastor at North Congressional United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. He and 12 other pastors have filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service challenging C Street‘s tax-exempt status.
Pastor Williams, thank you very much for your time tonight.
REV. ERIC WILLIAMS, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: My pleasure. Glad to join you.
MADDOW: The C Street house, as you know, is officially listed for tax purposes as a church. What prompted you and this group of other pastors to want to challenge that status?
WILLIAMS: Exactly that. When I was actually watching your show, when I heard you talking about those sex scandals and these elite powerful men seeking counseling at a boarding house that they call themselves a church, that‘s when my ear perked up. I thought, another Washington scandal—but when anyone begins to represent themselves as a church, that‘s when I pay attention.
MADDOW: As a pastor yourself, what concerns you the most about it being a church in terms of its tax-exempt status? Are you worried that people who essentially abuse that status, sort of, cheapen it for people who deserve it?
WILLIAMS: Well, that‘s right. I‘m concerned about maintaining the historic role the church has played in our society all these years. And when somebody‘s presenting themselves as a church and yet when you begin to ask questions about their activities, the reporting, their membership, and you find it doesn‘t look like a church at all, and then you say, well, what‘s the benefit they get from that?
And the benefit, I believe, is lack of transparency. Complete opacity. We don‘t know the revenue. We don‘t their membership. We don‘t know their activities. We don‘t know the extent of their influence at all.
MADDOW: That is what has attracted me to the story again and again and again. I keep thinking I‘m done talking about C Street and done talking about The Fellowship and The Family. And then it just keeps coming up.
On the specific issue of Bart Stupak, do you find it troubling specifically that members of Congress would be getting what appear to be in-kind donations from this group in the form of rent but they‘re not declared anywhere?
WILLIAMS: Oh, absolutely. I think, any time favors are given, that means there‘s an expectation that goes along with that. And if, indeed, they have been enjoying favors all these years and not declaring that, not admitting to that, it really goes to the credibility of how they are representing the work they do.
MADDOW: It‘s awkward for me because the secrecy makes it hard to report on, as well as to describe what these things mean. We know that when Bart Stupak initially introduced the abortion-related amendment in the House, he cosponsored it with Joe Pitts, who reported widely to be another member of The Family, but again, Mr. Pitts says, no, no, no, I have nothing to do with them. I will say it‘s a challenge for reporting as well.
WILLIAMS: It‘s really hard, absolutely—really hard for us to be able to learn anything. If we can shed a little bit of light on the organization, if they would open the door and invite us into a conversation, maybe they could assure us or maybe we can have some of those questions that you‘ve been digging at and digging at answered for us.
MADDOW: As we have talked about them, The Family has recently claimed that it has nothing to do with the C Street house. I understand that you have heard from affiliates from The Family since your complaint went public and made such a big splash. Is that true?
WILLIAMS: Yes, I was contacted by a couple of folks. One gentleman from Columbus, Ohio, and also was contacted by Tim Coe, son of famous Doug Coe, who expressed interest in talking about my objections and trying to reassure me. And I found that very interesting that he would contact me if, indeed, there is no relationship at all.
MADDOW: I hear your implication there. The Reverend Eric Williams—
MADDOW: Yes. Sorry, go ahead.
WILLIAMS: So, I invited him to a conversation, but a public conversation and made several attempts to invite him to that. And ultimately, he turned me down, wanting only a private conversation rather than one that have some accountability.
MADDOW: So, he—just to be clear—I‘m sorry, I interrupted you there. He offered to get in touch and talk to you about C Street even as The Family denies having anything to do with C Street, but he only wanted the conversation to happen between the two of you without anybody else there.
WILLIAMS: That‘s correct. That‘s correct. They want a private, confidential, un-reportable conversation.
MADDOW: We‘ll see if he‘ll join us on this show. We‘ll reach out to
Mr. Coe now that we know he‘s reached out to you. Reverend Eric Williams --
WILLIAMS: That would be wonderful. Keep up your good work, please.
MADDOW: And you, too, sir. Thank you.
Transcript via MSNBC.