Why Is Hampton Embarrassing “the Family”?

Last night, Rachel did a superb job on a story we were the first to cover: Doug Hampton’s efforts to get "the Family" to get John Ensign to stop sleeping with Hampton’s wife (see Hampton’s full interview here).

Now, in Hampton’s description of "the Family," he emphasizes they’re good men. And when Hampton first spoke, he did not mention "the Family" directly–we figured that out based on Ensign roomie’s Tom Coburn’s involvement. 

But I wonder. Are Hampton’s now-extensive discussion of "the Family" and Sanford’s off-hand reference to it mistakes, or intentional efforts to expose the group?

For Hampton’s part, I suspect he may have appealed to "the Family" because he knew–or hoped–it would be a quick way to a pay-off. And, given Coburn’s statement that Ensign should have done as "the Family" told him to do, Hampton may have had good reason to believe so. That is, the reference that initially got me and Citizen92 looking at the circumstances of this confrontation closely …

In fact one of the confrontations took place in February 2008 at his home in Washington DC (sic) with a group of his peers. One of the attendee’s (sic) was Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma as well as several other men who are close to the Senator.

… May have been an implicit threat to expose the group, a reference explicit enough to communicate to Ensign and "the Family" that he’d describe the group’s involvement if he did not get the pay-off they had recommended last year. Which is what we’re seeing now, Hampton’s revenge for the failure of "the Family" to resolve it amicably.

Then what of Sanford’s weepy reference, coming just a week or so after Hampton’s partial exposure of "the Family"?

Did your wife and your family know about the affair before the trip to Argentina?

Yeah. We’ve been working through this thing for about the last five months. I’ve been to a lot of different–I was part of a group called C Street when I was in Washington, it was a Christian Bible study of some folks that ask Members of Congress hard questions that I think were very very important. I’ve been working with them. 


It was discovered five months ago.

That’s a part of me that wonders whether Sanford–who appears to be discovering emotions usually first experienced during adolescence–just lost all filter in his confusion. But I’m not sure. If "the Family" ended up forcing Sanford’s hand–making him split with his beloved Maria–how would he feel about the group? Furthermore, if "the Family" dictated he ditch the mistress if he wanted to retain their support for his power, then he may have floated the reference as the same kind of implicit threat as Hampton made. 

I can’t help but notice that Tom Coburn is the only guy making extensive efforts to quash any discussion of "the Family."

“John Ensign hasn’t put me in a tough position at all,” said Coburn, a housemate of Ensign’s at a Capitol Hill home owned by a Christian fellowship. “The person that’s deceiving now is Doug. And you all need to go do the investigation now on that side of it and quit asking us and ask what’s the motivation here.” [snip] Hampton suggested that Coburn urged Ensign to write a February 2008 letter apologizing to Hampton’s wife, Cindy, a campaign aide to Ensign.

But on Thursday, Coburn said: “He is in error, and he’s manipulating the situation and you are all buying it.”

“I was never present when a letter was written, never made any assessment of paying anybody anything. Those are untruths. Those are absolute untruths.”

And I can’t help but wonder whether we’re hearing about "the Family" now because certain members of it are rebelling against its authoritarian trade-off for power. 

  1. fatster says:

    Great timing. I was going to link this on the previous thread as an O/T.

    C Street Band


    “As the Republican Party implodes the public is becoming aware of a secretive Christian society known as the Family or the Fellowship.  The group was founded in 1935 in opposition to FDR’s New Deal and its adherents subscribe to a far right Christian fundamentalist and free market ideology.  A minister named Abraham Vereide founded the Family after having a vision in which God visited him in the person of the head of the United States Steel Corporation (no, I’m not making this up).  The Family has a connection to house on C Street in Washington, D.C., known simply as C Street.  Officially registered as a church, the building serves as a meeting place and residence for conservative politicians.”


    Now, to read your latest post (and hope you haven’t hidden a link to this Counterpunch article in it somewhere).

    • maryo2 says:

      Officially registered as a church, the building serves as a meeting place and residence for conservative politicians.”

      Are taxes on the building reduced because it is a “church”?

      • fatster says:

        I can’t answer your specific question, but if you’ll watch the video at about 3:50, he says it is registered as a church. Hence, tax-exempt? Interesting question.

      • fatster says:

        From a diary over at dailykos.com

        “The Family runs but does not own the C Street House. According to a  June 26th, 2009 Washington Post story, by Manuel Roig-Franzia, “The Political Enclave That Dare Not Speak Its Name: The Sanford and Ensign Scandals Open a Door On Previously Secretive ‘C Street’ Spiritual Haven”, the C Street House is owned by a “little-known organization called Youth With a Mission of Washington DC.”‘

        [the article has more on Youth with a Mission–brrrrrrrr]

  2. bobschacht says:

    The snake pit of Republican ”ethics” is getting an interesting airing lately; thanks for this contribution!

    Typo alert:
    Furthermore, if ”the Family” dictated he ditch the mistress if the wanted to retain their support for his power, then he may have floated the reference as the same kind of implicit threat as Hampton made.

    The block quote thingy isn’t working, but take a look at the 3rd ”the”– should be ”he”?

    Bob in HI

  3. fatster says:

    Oh, this is rich. And I’ll bet you’ll be proven correct, too. (Not that that’ll do me any good, since nobody who reads here regularly will bet that you won’t.)

  4. alabama says:

    Maybe these guys just started hating each other and lost all sense of purpose. Blackmail and its fallout also make sense, but power politics on a grand scale does not (or not yet). The notion that there’s some remorse involved is one I’d never imagined. Something to think about as this mess continues to boil….Many thanks!

  5. TarheelDem says:

    How do you reckon folks in Oklahoma would respond to news that Senator Coburn lives in a commune and encourages other members of his commune to pay for sex.

  6. stagemom says:

    i was visiting a friend yesterday whose mother-in-law, husband and son are bipolar. she said matter of factly that gov. sanford was obviously bipolar. has anyone else said that or written that? it is now obvious to me, too.

      • freepatriot says:

        he’s a doctor AND a deacon

        so he can diagnose your bi-polar disorder, and then SYMPATHIZE with you about it

        an was foley a member of the family ???

        would be cause for some interesting counseling sessions

    • bobschacht says:

      Let’s take a look at the bipolar hypothesis. My guess would be that when he entered his depressive phase, he went running to Maria, and when he got his mojo back, he went back to his public job. When he’s in his manic phase, he doesn’t need Maria. When he’s in his depressive phase, he needs her badly.

      If this hypothesis is correct, then when he is in his manic phase, his C-Street family can convince him to go straight, announce that he is done with trysting, and wants to make nice with his family. But when he’s in his depressive phase, none of those things matter, and he has an insatiable need for the kind of “care” he was getting from Maria.

      Just because someone’s a doc doesn’t mean they know how to diagnose bipolar disorder. Other doctrines buzzing around in their heads might offer other interpretations and mandates.

      Bob in HI

      • TheraP says:

        All I can say about the hypothesis is this: If it should prove true, bi-polar illness gets worse with age!

      • Fern says:

        Not so sure about that – strikes me that running off to Argentina without thought of the consequences and blabbing about the state of his heart would be something a person would do in a manic phase. And that in a depressive phase, he would be more likely to feel really guilty and be malleable enough to do as he is told (ie – break up with Maria).

        Assuming of course that he does in fact have bi-polar depression, about which I do not have an opinion.

  7. BruceWebb says:

    Am I the only DFH who encountered the Illuminatus! Trilogy in the 70’s and enjoyed them as a drug-drenched parody sci-fi deal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Illuminatus!_Trilogy) only to flash forward to the Bush years and find them uneerily edging towards documentary status?

    Between The Family, the Peter G Peterson Foundation, and the PNAC we seem to be just about one undersea pyramid with a glowing eye from squaring the circle here. I understand the concept that even paranoids have real enemies but this is getting ridiculous.

  8. SaltinWound says:

    I’m guessing that the most important thing to Sanford right now is his star-crossed relationship with Maria. So my hypothesis is that he’s letting Maria know that breaking up with her wasn’t his idea. He told her in person and now he’s going to tell her in public, he’s going to sing it to the heavens!

  9. cbl2 says:

    allow me to play the role of pissed off 9 year old this morning –

    I couldn’t believe there wasn’t any reference to the work that went on here in bringing this connection to light – mr cbl wanted to know why I was “screaming at Rachel”

    granted it’s probably tribalism to some degree on my part but it reminds me of all the times TPM’s work was ’sampled’ without attribution

  10. freepatriot says:

    Why Is Hampton Embarrassing “the Family”?

    maybe he bought some stock in a popcorn company

    like me

    an about this:

    Last night, Rachel did a superb job on a story we were the first to cover: Doug Hampton’s efforts to get “the Family” to get John Ensign to stop sleeping with Hampton’s wife (see Hampton’s full interview here).

    what’s this “we” stuff

    you got a Raven in yer pocket or sumtin ???


    Rachel Maddow should cut out the middlemen, an take a trip to Michigan …

  11. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    EW, I’m picking my jaw up off the floor. I literally stopped everything else that I was doing to watch this clip in dumbfounded astonishment.

    FWIW, I’d just clicked over from TPM, which has a report on Ensign’s parents writing checks to pay off the mistress, while his C Street buddies drove him to FedEx to make sure he sent the missive to his mistress/employee (also mother of 3).

    What intrigues me is how maleable these men (Stanford, Ensign) are — they’re like putty in the hands of anyone they believe has ‘rightful authority’. We may be witnessing a real-live expose of the dynamics of authoritarians that John Dean so brilliantly explained in his ‘Conservatives Without Conscience‘. The psychological dynamics of dependency on those they believe are ‘in authority’ is just almost stupifying to see in adults. (And, I find myself unnerved by it although I have watched this dynamic on a smaller, regional stage.)

    In addition, ‘The Family’ fits almost eerily with what Craig Unger details in “The Fall of the House of Bush“, where he shows how several extremist ideologies linked up in the 1980s, when US evangelicals linked up with Likudniks. Both groups had strong agendas that promoted powerful identities; neither seems able to tolerate information that conflicts with their world-view.

    These groups may also link up with a rabbi named Daniel Lapin, born in S. Africa but moved to the US (including at one point Mercer Island, the same city in Seattle where Barak Obama’s mom finished high school; relish the irony!). Lapin advocated the notion that G*d wants you to be rich, rich, rich! He had some linkages to Abramoff, and for a period had a Seattle radio show. (I think that I accidentally heard part of it once while driving and it was so weird that it stuck in my mind before I switched the station in urgent need of brain bleach.)

    The reason that I mention Lapin — and I’m not saying that he links to ‘The Family’, only that they both seem to have some kind of ‘prosperity Gospel’ thing going on. You are Chosen for leadership. You are Chosen to be rich, rich, rich!

    I think we’re seeing self-reflection emerge in Stanford; I think your hunch that he’s now going through what most of us went through as adolescents is probably right on target. Better late than never…
    Ensign, OTOH, seems incapable of self-reflection, and if that’s the case he’ll probably be stuck in a very immature, possibly vindictive state.
    Both men would be very useful tools for any Powerful Interests (is Dick Cheney listening…?) who wanted people they could control.

    I’ve now added ‘The Family’ to my late-summer reading stack.

    • TheraP says:

      rOTL: It sure sounds like Sarah Palin too, doesn’t it? At least the part about being designated to become rich… To have power?

      Excellent comment.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Thanks; too long, but I was trying to get Lapin into it. He’s not a name that I see often, but he surely has something to do with Abramoff, and my skin would probably crawl if I understood the connection.

        A neighbor-friend is a minister and he scoffs at what he calls ‘the prosperity gospel nonsense’ that Lapin represents, and Jim & Tammy Baker represented, and very likely ‘The Family’ is in the same realm.

  12. Arbusto says:

    What bothered me most about the Maddow clip, other than The Families rampant lunacy, is that not only do it’s members buy into the notion of innate superiority, but that Christianity is set aside by some wacko of 70 years ago because God came to him and said Christianity is for losers; he who dies with the most wins. That’s bad enough, but then how different are these Congress critters who bought into The Family, from just about every other Elected and selected official inside The Beltway.

    Reminds me of Heinleins “Job: A Comedy of Justice”

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Christianity is for losers; he who dies with the most wins. That’s bad enough, but then how different are these Congress critters who bought into The Family, from just about every other Elected and selected official inside The Beltway.

      That view was also taking root in Germany in the early 20th century, and led Nietzsche to write ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra‘ in which Nietzche argues that traditional Christian-Judeo morality is ‘for slaves’ and that the ’self-mastered man’ will be an overlord of the rest of humanity, who are ’slaves’. The phrase “God is dead” comes from this work, which was widely read by German soldiers along the Maginot Line in WWI and was part of the underlying philosophical beliefs that culminated in the German National Socialist (Nazi) movement.

      So the emergence of this ‘C Street’ credo in the 1930s, which was the period in which the idea of ’slaves’ and ‘ubermen’ was gaining power in Germany, is — at least for me — very, very creepy.

      Note that all these beliefs occurred before the discovery of DNA, the gene, molecular genetics, and other empirical breakthroughs that are far more egalitarian.

  13. plunger says:

    Only weak men, morally blackmailable – are allowed into the political arena to begin with.

    What you are describing is a protection racket in which alleged right wing conservatives are backstopped by a larger organization capable of silencing would-be whistleblowers when members “CHEAT” – with payoffs as large as $1 million. Are they also capable of murder?

    So who resides at the level above, funding this mechanism?

    Who operates the system by which only men of low moral character are allowed into the area at the outset?

    You think John Edwards was an aberration? Seems pretty typical, no?

    This is systemic. Qui Bono?

  14. FormerFed says:

    Let me see if I understand all this – the guy pimps his wife out to their boss (a senator) and then leans on his boss and his boss’s family for some hush money and is aided in this extortion scheme by a good friend of his boss (another senator), both of whom are members of some quasi-secret religious group.

    Hollywood could not dream up this stuff. Truly amazing and also truly repugnant.

  15. Neil says:

    The influence of “The Family”, the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, as described by Jeff Sharlet, Maddow, and emptywheel is a corrosive influence on our Constitutional government that affects more than consolidated power yielded by an individual family member, it is a corrupt abuse of christian thought, a distortion that provides an allegedly righteous rationale for immoral authority acquired to benefit the few. It is so objectionable I ask myself the question: As a trade, can we please have Newt back?

    Americans call out for Islam to isolate it’s violent radicalized religious zealots. Shouldn’t we clean up our own house too? I’m not saying the Family uses violent means to its ends. I’m saying they’ve twisted Christian values to a point that makes them unrecognizable as Christian values, and they have done so in pursuit of power for their own benefit.

  16. BlueDido says:

    FormerFed @ 27: Perfect! That’s exactly what I think, too. (In ancient Rome, a man who did what Hampton has done would be prosecuted, by the government, for pimping his wife.)

    I think we should get a collection together to make the man a t-shirt, with a nice big C St. Family logo, and a legend reading “My wife had an affair with my boss and all I got was $96,000 (plus this lousy t-shirt).”

    The order from Coburn to pay off the entire family is too creepy for words. Why did the kids have to be dragged in to this repulsive, sleazy mess?

    • FormerFed says:

      What does the logo look like?? I think I would buy the tee – can we work Sanford into the picture – maybe on the reverse going to Argentina via the Appalachian Trail?

      • BlueDido says:

        The logo—well, I’m not a designer, so I can imagine only something with “C St.,” “Family,” and a cross. I’d buy the tee in a second.

        Is there room for some dollar signs? “My wife had an affair with my bo$$, and all I got wa$ thi$ lou$y t-$hirt”

        Sanford on the back, from Appalachia to Argentina—I *love* it! We’d have to get the C St. Family connection in there somehow.

        Any graphic designers out there who can help us?

    • NealDeesit says:

      Why did the kids have to be dragged in to this repulsive, sleazy mess?

      Blame the Internal Revenue Code’s provisions on gift taxes, as explained here. The relevant portions, with emphasis [and a comment] added.

      What can be excluded from gifts?
      The general rule is that any gift is a taxable gift. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. Generally, the following gifts are not taxable gifts: 1.Gifts that are not more than the annual exclusion for the calendar year….

      How many annual exclusions are available?
      The annual exclusion applies to gifts to each donee. In other words, if you give each of your [son’s mistress’s] children $11,000 in 2002-2005, $12,000 in 2006-2008, and $13,000 on or after January 1, 2009, the annual exclusion applies to each gift.

      What if my spouse and I want to give away property that we own together?
      You are each entitled to the annual exclusion amount on the gift. Together, you can give $22,000 to each donee (2002-2005) or $24,000 (2006-2008), $26,000 (effective on or after January 1, 2009).

      Making annual exclusion gifts to children and grandchildren is a tax-favored giving strategy that wealthy people, like Ensign’s parents, use to transfer assets to their descendants, free of all taxes. When the gift is made, the donor pays no gift tax; the donee pays no income tax; and when the donor dies, the gifted assets are beyond the reach of estate tax.

      So usually, when a wealthy couple makes annual exclusion gifts to the children of the woman whom their son is screwing, it’s because the donee children are the couple’s grandchildren: fathered by their son, borne by their daughter-in-law. With the Ensigns, not so much.

  17. rapt says:

    Don’t be distracted by the details. This story is a quick peek behind the veil, allowing a glimpse of some of what our Senate looks like. I expect more peeks in the near future, but this is more than enough to sweep away all respect, and the loyalty which presumably goes with it.

  18. Citizen92 says:

    The FedEX office closest to the Family’s C Street house is less than a block away. I’ve been there.

    That office is open ’till 8 pm (last pickup at 6 pm) to accommodate late government and lobbyist dispatches.

    It would have been highly impractical to drive Ensign from the C Street house to that office. The only office that would have been open later is one of those FedEX/Kinkos combos, which is approximately 8 blocks away. That could have merited a drive.

  19. orionATL says:

    none of this makes any sense to me.

    may be it will later; maybe not.

    there definitely are some missing parts to the puzzle; the motives and the actions of the players are well connected.

    where is the leader of the org (and his son) in all this?

    why coburn?

    why should he care?

    does he have a mistress too?

    who tasked him with the job of resolving the ensign infidelity?

    why should he have a special role in all this?

    why should ew assume the ensign defense (hampton’s after a payoff)?

    could he just be royally pissed and seeking some revenge?

    and how is it that hampton is a “cuckold” (an old word rarely used on the internet but repeatedly used with respect to this husband)

    but jenny sanford is not?

    • Citizen92 says:

      Yes, there are still pieces missing.

      I noted before that I am skeptical that Ensign was ‘driven’ to the FedEx office because the FedEx office is a few doors away from C Street. Driving that short distance would be absurd. A niggling detail, I know. But it sounds wrong to me, which could alternatively mean that someone was making up the FedEx story altogether.

      Then there’s Ensign’s parents. Why on earth did they get involved? Their charitable contribution to his mistress sounds like a cover story too. Maybe they’re lying because Ensign really did pay his mistress out of political funds, didn’t report it and realized he was in deep legal trouble. Or maybe keeping Ensign in his seat in the Senate would be helpful to his casino-mogul parents. Ensign’s parents FEC history shows a lot of $$ contributions to Ensign-related funds (and the NRSC when he was chair…)

      But that’s why I don’t get about his “parents.” Ensign is adopted by his “dad” (Ensign’s mother remarried). Could his adoptive father love his son that much? To pay off the mistress… Or was there another financial motive at hand…

      And then Coburn. He’s the only Senator placed smack in the middle of this… Why him? Did he care TOO much?

  20. Twain says:

    Sorry, I just don’t believe that either Sanford or Ensign has a mental illness. They are quite simply lying, cheating adulterers and thought they could get away with it because they are special – and they may be right – that’s the awful part.

  21. prostratedragon says:

    Seems to me that although Coburn’s specialty has nothing to do with most of his interactions with Family members —direct ones, anyway [ahem]— we suddenly started getting reminded of it at just the point when questions might have been asked of him and his role in such matters as the Hampton payments.

    Maybe that’s the basis of his special function in the group, since he can try to claim a professional privilege.