October 3, 2009

Rachel Maddow reports on the latest news to come out of the C-Street House. It appears that Tom Coburn, despite previous denials, was allowed by John Ensign to basically negotiate his bribes for him. So much for those "family values".

MCCONNELL: I really don`t have any observations to make about the Ensign matter. Senator Ensign continues to serve. He`s a member of the finance committee, been active in the discussions here.

I don`t think today is a day to make any observations about the matter. It just appeared in the newspaper today. I don`t have any observations to make about the Ensign matter today. At the risk of being redundant, I really don`t have anything to add about the newspaper article that was in the "New York Times" today.


MADDOW: That`s the top Republican in the United States Senate. Mitch McConnell today pointedly and refusing to say anything supportive whatsoever about Nevada Senator John Ensign. His political fortunes have gone from dismal to humiliating, to him now being on resignation watch because of an adulterous affair so dramatically mishandled it may ultimately land the senator in prison.

But the dramatic new revelations in the blockbuster 4,000-word expose published on the front page of "The New York Times" today have also ensnared another Republican senator whose self-proclaimed integrity and piety have also been dragged down into the gutter with John Ensign. The second senator has been caught on tape lying to reporters about something he now admits -- lying about the fact that he ended up being the financial broker who tried to get Senator Ensign a cheaper payoff rate for his mistress.

It`s Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. He`s an evangelical. He`s an ordained deacon and he lived with Senator Ensign at the C Street house in Washington, a house that`s maintained as living quarters for conservative Christian members of Congress by a secretive religious group that`s called the Family. We discussed the Family a lot on this show.

The Family actually lists on the C Street property as a church for tax purposes. And it was at that church, C Street, where Senator Tom Coburn learned that his housemate, John Ensign, was having an extramarital affair. And it was there that Senator Coburn made the extraordinary decision to try to help John Ensign contain the damage from that affair with cash.

According to an interview that Senator Coburn himself gave the "New York Times," while Ensign was still sleeping with his mistress, Coburn became Ensign`s negotiator, his financial negotiator. A lawyer hired by the mistress` husband wanted a cash payout to the mistress and her family as compensation for the harm caused by the affair.

Senator Coburn personally negotiated the financial deal, trying to get Ensign the best possible price for his sins.

What you`re looking at here is the first proposed cash settlement. This is what the family of John Ensign`s mistress wanted Ensign to pay as compensation for messing up their family and costing both the mistress and her husband their jobs since they were both employed by Senator Ensign. The cash demand was $8.5 million. That was presented to the upright and pious Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma who acted as Ensign`s negotiator in the deal. Coburn`s reaction to that proposed settlement was: no way.

We don`t know if he has experience negotiating senator`s payoff rates for their extramarital affairs, or if he just thought that he could get his friend in this case a better deal. But according to "The Times," the mistress` family lawyer, quote, "gave Mr. Coburn a figure, just under $8.5 million. Mr. Coburn dismissed that as ridiculous. The mistress` husband came back with a lower number, about $2 million, which Mr. Coburn passed on to Senator Ensign."

It`s really a heck of a news flash for the people of Oklahoma if you think about it. People of Oklahoma, your U.S. senator, the deacon, the anti-abortion, anti-gay, holier-than-thou senator who went so far as to demand that "Schindler`s List" not be shown on television because it contained nudity, Senator Tom Coburn has been spending his time in Washington brokering cheaper payoff rates for senators to their mistresses. And he`s been lying about it.

This summer, after the husband of the Ensign`s mistress did a local TV interview in Vegas in which he said that Senator Coburn had tried to negotiate a payoff to the mistress and her family, Senator Coburn categorically denied that he had done any such thing, telling reporters from the front stoop of the C Street that he, quote, "never made any assessment of paying anybody anything. Those are untruths. Those are absolute untruths."

That was Senator Tom Coburn in July, a direct quote there. That was Senator Tom Coburn lying about something to which he now admits.

I mean take your pick, either Senator Coburn is lying now when he tells the "New York Times" that he did try to broker a payoff rate for Senator Ensign to pay his mistress or he was lying in July when he denied doing exactly that. Take your pick, Oklahoma.

In July, when Senator Coburn said he had not tried to broker a cash deal between Senator Ensign and his mistress, Senator Coburn`s hometown paper, "The Tulsa World," wrote an editorial about their senator`s role in the affair. It started with this line. Quote, "We take Senator Tom Coburn at his word. When he says he did not advice Senator John Ensign to pay off his married mistress. It would have been completely out of character for him to do so."

Maybe it`s time to revise that assessment of his character.

Rachel was joined by Jeff Sharlet and asked for his insight as to why Tom Coburn would think it was alright to help cover up his fellow C-Street member's affair.

Full transcript available here.

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