published Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Zach Wamp caught up in national controversy

Audio clip

Rep. Zach Wamp

For a dozen years, a three-story, brick rowhouse near the U.S. Capitol has served as the Washington home and spiritual sanctuary for the likes of U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., along with a number of other Christian conservative politicians.

But the sex scandals of U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford have thrust the home known as the C Street Center, its residents and the secretive Fellowship Foundation, a conservative Christian group with ties to the center, into the national limelight.

Sen. Ensign, who lives at the 133 C St. SE residence, has publicly admitted to cheating on his wife with a campaign aide whose husband worked on his Senate staff. Gov. Sanford did not live at the C Street home but has publicly stated he sought counseling from “C Street” in relation to his affair with an Argentine woman.

“It’s controversial all of a sudden and even more secretive because Ensign is associated with it, and because Mark Sanford ran there when he was hurting,” Rep. Wamp said during an interview on Saturday. “He (Sanford) never lived there, he wasn’t involved there.”

The center is not “a bad thing,” said Rep. Wamp, who’s running for Tennessee governor. “I see it as a good thing ... To us, it’s just Tuesday-night dinner, talk about your life, a place to live with people who are like-minded in a bipartisan way.”

But Rep. Wamp is coming under fire from MSNBC show host Rachel Maddow regarding remarks he made to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The newspaper quoted him as saying that C Street residents won’t talk about their private living arrangements and that he intends to honor that with the article paraphrasing the congressman as saying there was a “pact” not to talk.

On her show last week, Ms. Maddow called Rep. Wamp on the carpet for having sworn himself to secrecy. Rep. Wamp’s office complained, but Ms. Maddow said on her Monday program that she checked with the newspaper and no demands were made by Rep. Wamp’s congressional office for a correction.

Rep Wamp said that, historically, the C Street Center “should have shared more about what they do, but they didn’t want to violate people’s private decisions to come there. And you know what happens when you share and the media writes about it? Nobody comes, and the whole thing evaporates.”

On Saturday, Rep. Wamp declined to go into details about Sen. Ensign and said he knew little about Gov. Sanford. Attempts to reach Rep. Wamp Tuesday for follow-up questions were unsuccessful.

The Fellowship Foundation also has come under scrutiny and criticism after author Jeff Sharlot wrote about it in his 2008 book, “The Family: The Secret Foundation at the Heart of American Power,” describing the group as “anti-Democratic” and with a fetish for power.

According to federal tax filings and news accounts, the C Street Center is tied to the Fellowship Foundation. The group organizes the national prayer breakfast, an annual event since 1953 which has been attended by American political leaders — including presidents — religious figures and world leaders. Rep. Wamp served as the event’s chairman in 2001.

Mr. Sharlot said the group “began as an anti-New Deal organization in the 1930s when the founder believed that God gave him a revelation that government regulation was a tool of Satan’s.”

He said Fellowship Foundation founder Abram Vereide believed God “told him that Christianity had been misunderstood for 2,000 years. It’s about helping the poor, but how do you do it? Do you help the poor directly? ... But his idea was no, you help the powerful, the already powerful. God has chosen who he wants to work with.”

Mr. Sharlot said the foundation is a kind of “trickle-down fundamentalism.” He also said Doug Coe, who runs the Fellowship Foundation, often presents Hitler, Stalin and Mao as leadership models even as he acknowledges they are “evil men. Coe’s not a neo-Nazi.”

“But he says they understood what the New Testament is about is not justice, mercy, love, forgiveness ... it’s the power. That’s the bottom line.”

On Saturday, Rep. Wamp declined to address questions about the Fellowship Foundation’s beliefs, but he said the foundation is “just a loose, totally non-denominational ecumenical piece of faith on the Hill which has been a real good thing.”

“It’s not secretive,” Rep. Wamp maintained. “It’s that that’s the only way something like this can exist. That’s why it happens that way, man. So, it’s not like anybody’s trying to hide anything. It’s so that people can feel like they can (confide).”

Stan Holmes, a Fellowship Foundation associate, said Tuesday night there is “false information” being put out about the group.

“Certainly, there is an effort to deal with people in leadership, but there’s also great concern for the poor and a lot of effort put into that from what I’ve seen and experienced,” he said.

“There’s certainly no praise for Hitler or any of these people who have done terrible evil,” he said. “I think they will be used badly as an illustration of being able to inspire people, encourage people toward a real commitment. But certainly no one is praising the horrors of what was done by Hitler or Stalin.”

The Fellowship Foundation’s primary purpose is “trying to follow the teachings of Jesus, and we’re trying to encourage other people to do the same,” said Mr. Holmes, who worked with Rep. Wamp on the prayer breakfast but said he knew little about the C Street Center.

Mr. Sharlot has his own beef with the congressman, noting that he was also quoted saying that, in Tennessee, if “you are involved in a Christian fellowship, it ain’t going to hurt you.”

“There’s plenty of Christian fellowship (in Washington),” Mr. Sharlot said. “So if you decide I’m going to choose the one that is secretive, that denies it exists, that has a leader who says things like ‘the more invisible you can make the organization the more influence you’ll have’ ... I’m guessing (Tennessee Christians) will say, ‘You know, I haven’t heard that kind of thing at my church. Tell me more about this Christian fellowship.

“So, yes,” Mr. Sharlot said. “Zach Wamp has some explaining to do.”

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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drufuller5565 said...

Rachel Maddow has built her MSNBC program around Andy Sher's story on Zack Wamp. Earlier, she built a program around a story in the Sentinel. Who knew she was reading Tennessee newspapers?

July 15, 2009 at 9:23 p.m.
librul said...

Rachel Maddow kicks ass!!!!!!

It's about time this bunch of charlatans was exposed. Doug Coe's statements about Hitler, about hating one's own family and the support these "Christians" have given to murderous fascist dictators all around the world COMPLETELY overshadow anything Zack Wamp could ever say to try to pull the wool over our eyes. They're wide open now, Zack. You're political toast!

July 15, 2009 at 10:17 p.m.
Jhenry said...

I'm not really sure what the story is? What point is Richard Maddow trying to make? Why is Z. Wamp bothering with this most despicable person?

July 16, 2009 at 6:45 a.m.
Joyanna said...

I invite all readers to read Jeff Sharlet's original Harper's article here: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2003/03/0079525

This is the foundation for the book. Mr. Sharlet actually spent some time living with "The Family" and thus writes from first-hand experience. After reading this article, see if you still think that Zach Wamp should be holding public office. This is a cult, as surely as the Jim Jones church, the Manson family, or any other brainwashing endeavor.

July 17, 2009 at 1:04 p.m.
GennyLea said...

This stuff is really mind boggling! It's hard to imagine that members of congress would be involved in this kind of cult. Sounds like it started out more than 50 years ago as rather innocent, but like many secret societies, seemed to have taken on a life of its own. It's very disgusting when individuals, particularly elected officials, use church organizations, which should be places of refuge, for their own depraved purposes.

I urge you to read Jeff Sharlet's book "The Family," or click on to the link at : http://www.harpers.org/archive/2003/03/0079525

A quote from the article at Harper's : “Beau, let's say I hear you raped three little girls. And now here you are at Ivanwald. What would I think of you, Beau?” Beau shrank into the cushions. “Probably that I'm pretty bad?” “No, Beau. I wouldn't. Because I'm not here to judge you. That's not my job. I'm here for only one thing.” “Jesus?” Beau said. David smiled and winked.

July 17, 2009 at 1:54 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

TFP EDITORS,

The truth hurts, eh?

July 17, 2009 at 2:33 p.m.
Sailorman said...

Zack Wamp is a dolt for a hundred reasons. But anybody that thinks Rachel Maddow "rocks" has rocks in their head.

July 17, 2009 at 3:13 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

Tread lightly Sailorman, I've been censored in this one. First time ever, I'm kinda proud of it, but apparently SOMEONE may have gotten their feelings hurt. TFB!

July 17, 2009 at 3:37 p.m.
sandyonsignal said...

There is another Congressman who just came forward that he used his C-Street room to have an affair with his mistress. Former Rep. Pickering is the latest in this scandalous bordello... oh, I mean so-called Church for tax purposes only.

Drip, drip, drip... how many more will be named? And how interesting that our "moral and values" politicians did nothing but cover for their friends.

July 17, 2009 at 4:03 p.m.
Rusirious said...

most people who are posting here are simply uninformed and trying to stoke flames by imagining things that simply not true. There are literally HUNDREDS of Congressman who have lived in the house or been closely associated with the C Street house over the many years it has been in existence. Steve Largent is one. He is an NFL Hall of Famer and head of CTIA. yep he must be a card carrying member of The Illuminati. Add Heath Shuler to that list...Racheal Maddow is digging for a liberal issue to get everybody all riled up and drive ratings for her stupid show. Dont be sheeple. Sorry to burst your bubble but its just a bunch of congressman who happen to believe in trying to be decent Americans and in order to keep themselves grounded, agree to participate in shared religious times together. Not really all that exciting when the truth be told. But who wants that to get in the way? Wasnt this country founded by people seeking to flee religious persecution? Why do some people feel that because it has ANYTHING to do with religion it is bad? I dont know but I do know this...Zach Wamp is a decent and well intentioned human being. I have worked on and around the hill for over 30 years and this house is nothing more than I what I stated. If you disagree you obviously have never been in or around the C Street house.

August 25, 2009 at 11:15 a.m.
Viking said...

Can't say that I'm surprised that Mr. Wamp's current pals are none other than the hypocritical, adulterous crowd of Mr. Sanford, Mr. Ensign, and Mr. Pickering. And these clowns were criticizing Bill Clinton! Birthers, deathers, and hypocrites now make up the overwhelming majority of the Republican party.

Mr. Wamp is a classic example of the modern day Republican. He believes that he is superior and entitled. Just ask his "spiritual adviser", Doug Coe, who is infamous for his admiration of dictatorial tyrants of all stripes.

August 25, 2009 at 3:26 p.m.
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