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Did secretive religious group subsidize Congressman’s rent?

thefamilyjeffsharlet Did secretive religious group subsidize Congressmans rent?Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) has been making headlines recently by threatening to torpedo health care reform unless the bill excludes coverage for abortion.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow believes that Stupak is just looking for publicity with “this antiabortion stunt” and that “it is not rational to think that the Democratic-led House and the Democratic-led Senate are going to let him use health reform as a way to effectively ban abortion.”

She points out, however, that Stupak’s new notoriety means that he may “end up having to answer for some of the unexplained things that no one cared to have [him] explain before.”

“For example,” Maddow noted on Thursday, “Bart Stupak famously was one of the conservative politicians who lived at C Street — a $1.8 million town house on Capitol Hill that featured in the Mark Sanford sex scandal and the John Ensign sex scandal and the Chip Pickering sex scandal. The house is home to a number of members of Congress. It has been reported to be run by the secretive religious group known as the Family.”

The series of scandals involving the Family and its high-level network of political connections has been growing since last summer, when it was learned that the three conservative lawmakers involved in allegations of infidelity all had ties to the C Street house. The Family has since been linked to a proposed law in Uganda which would mandate the death penalty for cases of “aggravated homosexuality.”

Last month the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington suggested that President Obama and members of Congress avoid the group’s National Prayer Breakfast because it “actually serves as a meeting and recruiting event for the shadowy Fellowship Foundation,” another name for the Family.

Stupak has insisted, “There is no such thing as ‘the Family.’ … I rent a room, that’s really about it. … There is no theocracy that I’m a part of.” He has also declined to comment on author Jeff Sharlet’s claim that he is “very involved” in the religious aspect of the Family and has mentored other members.

“But here’s the rub,” Maddow explained. “Everyone who has been living at C Street, including Bart Stupak, has been getting a sweetheart deal. … These are rooms in this really swanky town house that come with meals, they come with maid service … How much do you think that’s worth on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., just blocks away from the Capitol building? How about $600 a month?”

“You can`t pay that kind of way-below market rent unless you`re being subsidized by someone,” Maddow continued. “That`s an in-kind donation to a member of Congress. That means that for every single month he was living there, and he lived there for years, Bart Stupak was apparently receiving an in-kind, very generous donation of rent. Someone was paying for Bart Stupak to live in this fake church. Who was it?”

Maddow was joined by Ed Brayton, state editor of The Michigan Messenger, who has been following the Stupak story closely. Brayton said that last summer, he asked Jeff Sharlet who Stupak was paying rent to if not the Family. He was told that the “C Street house is actually owned … by the C Street Foundation. … The Family operates to a huge network of loosely affiliated nonprofit organizations….. and according to Jeff, the C Street Foundation is directly affiliated with The Family.”

Last summer, Raw Story reported that according to the Washington Post, the house is owned by an even more shadowy religious group, Youth With a Mission, whose declared objectives include establishing world domination through control of government, education, business, and the media.

Brayton, however, seemed disinclined to go too hard on Stupak. “I don`t think it`s fair to paint him as sort of a religious right ideologue,” he concluded. “That`s not what he is. He`s a fairly moderate guy. But abortion is the one issue that, I think, really gets his dander up and that he feels very strongly about, and he feels like that`s a place where his religious views should be imposed on the rest of the country.”

This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast March 4, 2010.

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