Rachel Maddow follows up her reporting on the C-Street House and what secrets lie within it. Maddow: But we start tonight with a mystery. A mystery t
July 11, 2009

Rachel Maddow follows up her reporting on the C-Street House and what secrets lie within it.

Maddow: But we start tonight with a mystery. A mystery that’s unfolding along side the two major political scandals of the summer. It’s a mystery that concerns this house, at 133 C Street Southeast in Washington D.C. I’m calling it a house because, that’s what it looks like to me and people do live there, but if you consult this building’s financial paper trail you will find that it’s actually considered to be a church. That designation makes C-Street a convenient tax free haven for the secretive organization that runs it. An organization that is known as The Family.

It also makes for some awkward tax and income questions for the at least five, probably seven members of Congress who live at the house in exchange for what appears to be substantially below market rent. As explained by our guest last night, Jeff Sharlet who secretly infiltrated The Family to write a book about them, the C-Street house is a former convent. It’s used as a sort of subsidized, really upscale dorm for members of Congress who are associated with this powerful, poorly understood religious group.

The Family and the house at C-Street have ended up reluctantly in the headlines now because of the two major politicians’ sex scandals that are embroiling the Republican party this summer, and that have taken two of their reported 2012 presidential hopefuls out of political contention.

Embattled Sen. John Ensign lives at the C-Street house. The husband of Sen. Ensign’s mistress says that prominent members of The Family and this religious group including the sons of the group’s founder, as well as other members of congress who live at C-Street were both aware of Ensign’s secret affair, and were involved in his efforts to pay off the mistress and her family as the affair was on again, off again, ending. Republican Sen. Tom Coburn lives at C-Street with Ensign. He has said he encouraged Ensign to end the affair, but he has denied the allegation that he specifically encouraged Sen. Ensign to pay the mistress off to the tune of millions of dollars.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford mentioned C-Street by name in his long public statement of regret about his affair with a woman in Argentina.


Hard questions. Gov. Sanford said he was working with C-Street, somehow about his affair for months while the affair was ongoing, while it was still secret, and while Gov. Sanford continued to lie about it publicly. This is the first point about C-Street and The Family that makes the group more than just a cameo appearance in both of these sex scandals. In both incidences these powerful, family values preaching, conservative politicians who were themselves having adulterous affairs, say now that they disclosed those affairs to other members of congress, and other people affiliated with this secretive religious group for a long time, while the affairs continued, and while they were kept secret from the world at large. This organization was allowed to know but nobody was, nobody else was.

Zach Wamp of Tennessee is a Republican member of congress who says he has lived in the C-Street house for twelve years. Today he told the Knoxville News Sentinel that the members of congress who live there are sworn to secrecy. Quoting from the News Sentinel “The C-Street residents have all agreed they won’t talk about their private living arrangements, Wamp said, and he intends to honor that pact.” “I hate it that John Ensign lives in the house and this happened because it opens up all kinds of these questions,” Wamp said. But he said, “I’m not going to be the guy who goes out and talks.”

When you start looking into this organization and its members oaths to the secrecy and fidelity to one another, that “I’m not going to be the one who talks” here theme, looms very large. But last year, when Jeff Sharlet’s book about The Family first came out in hardback, the resultant buzz around the secrecy and high level connections of The Family and the C-Street house spurred NBC’s Andrea Mitchell to obtain sermons of the groups long time leader, Doug Coe.

In order to find out more about what this group’s agenda might be. Here’s some of what she found.


Every American’s faith is her or his own business. It’s our constitutional inheritance as Americans. There’s no religious test for public office. There’s no official religion in this country. And every American has a right to believe or not to believe. To worship, or not worship as he or she sees fit. This is a private matter in this country. And religion is the organizing principle of many, many powerful interests in the United States, including this one, very connected, sworn to secrecy, ministry only to the powerful, that has had a key role in how two major Republican sex scandals have unspooled this summer, that has a theology of power that is poorly understood, and cites Hitler a lot, and that currently houses at least seven members of congress, in what it calls, a church.

Rachel followed this segment with another interview with Jeff Sharlet. It would be nice to see this whole story blown wide open and every member of "The Family" having to explain their membership. They sound more like members of the mafia with this secret society and their "cells" than anyone who should be running our government.

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