The Secret Political Reach Of ‘The Family’
The Family, or the Fellowship, is in its own words an “invisible” association, though it has always been organized around public men. Senator Sam Brownback (R., Kansas), chair of a weekly, off -the-record meeting of religious right groups called the Values Action Team (VAT), is an active member, as is Representative Joe Pitts (R., Pennsylvania), an avuncular would-be theocrat who chairs the House version of the VAT. Others referred to as members include senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Steering Committee (the powerful conservative caucus co-founded back in 1974 by another Family associate, the late senator Carl Curtis of Nebraska); Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa); James Inhofe (R., Oklahoma); Tom Coburn (R., Oklahoma); John Thune (R., South Dakota); Mike Enzi (R., Wyoming); and John Ensign, the 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. Some Democrats are involved: representatives Bart Stupak and Mike Doyle, leading anti-abortion Democrats, are longtime residents of the Family’s C Street House, a former convent registered as a church and used to provide Family-subsidized housing for politicians supported by the Family. A centrist occasionally stumbles into the fold, but the Family is mostly conservative. Family stalwarts in the House include Representatives Frank Wolf (R., Virginia), Zach Wamp (R., Tennessee), and Mike McIntyre, a hard right North Carolina Democrat who believes that the Ten Commandments are “the fundamental legal code for the laws of the United States” and thus ought to be on display in schools and court houses.