Sex and power inside “the C Street House”
Sanford, Ensign, and other regulars receive guidance from the invisible fundamentalist group known as the Family
By Jeff Sharlet
Jul. 21, 2009 |
I can’t say I was impressed when I met Sen. John Ensign at the C Street House, the secretive religious enclave on Capitol Hill thrust into the news by its links to three political sex scandals, those of Gov. Mark Sanford; former Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., who allegedly rendezvoused at the C Street House with his mistress, an executive in the industry for which he then became a lobbyist; and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. Although Sanford declared today that his scandal will actually turn out to be good for the people of South Carolina because he’s now more firmly in God’s control, the once-favored GOP presidential prospect will finish out his term and fade away. And Ensign’s residence at the C Street House during his own extramarital affair now threatens to end a career that he and other Republicans hoped would lead him to the White House.
When I met Ensign, he was just back from a run, sweaty and bouncing in place, boasting about the time he’d clocked and teasing a young woman from his office. She seemed annoyed that the senator wouldn’t get himself into a shower and back on the job. When I wrote about Sen. Ensign in my book about the evangelical political organization that runs the C Street House, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” I described him as a “conservative casino heir elected to the Senate from Nevada, a brightly tanned, hapless figure who uses his Family connections to graft holiness to his gambling-fortune name.”
Now, of course, I know I was wrong: John Ensign is a brightly tanned, hapless figure who used his Family connections to cover up the fruits of his flirtations, to make moral decisions for him, and to do his dirty work when his secret romance sputtered. Doug Hampton, the friend and former aide whom Ensign cuckolded, tells us that it was Family leader David Coe, along with Coe’s brother Tim and Family “brother” Sen. Tom Coburn, who delivered the pink slip when it was time to put Cynthia Hampton out of Ensign’s reach.