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Intrigue Grows Over C Street

Member Scandals Mount for Christian House Near Capitol

The well-kept brick home just blocks from the Capitol known simply as “C Street” has been a tranquil living space for a handful of Members and a sanctuary for Christian prayer and fellowship for many others over the years.

But news last week that yet another one-time tenant had an extramarital affair while serving in Congress has reignited the frenzy of intrigue about the house at 133 C St. SE, and sources close to it say the scandals have underscored the need to lift the veil of secrecy.

“If there isn’t a discussion at some point about how they do their ministry, there needs to be,” said a source close to C Street.

While some believe that Members familiar with C Street should publicly discuss the service missions, prayer groups and overall camaraderie that provide them with a haven of sorts, other sources interviewed for this article said that such a move might backfire.

So far, the recent news about the extramarital affairs of two of the current and one-time housemates — Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and former Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) — has not shaken the resolve of the lawmakers who now reside there. Indeed, all five have steadfastly upheld their silence.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a C Street resident who reportedly counseled Ensign on how to handle his affair with a former staffer, has stayed mum about such conversations, citing constitutional protections for communications during religious counseling, as well as the doctor-patient confidentiality privilege. Coburn calls himself an “ordained deacon” and is an obstetrician.

“That is privileged communication that I will never reveal to anybody,” the Oklahoman said July 9 when asked about the Ensign affair.

Ensign has shunned the spotlight since revealing his affair with one-time campaign aide Cynthia Hampton on June 16. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), also a C Street resident, deflected questions for this story.

Pickering last week became the third prominent lawmaker in recent weeks with ties to the C Street complex to be accused of an extramarital affair. In Pickering’s case, his estranged wife, Leisha Pickering, filed a lawsuit against his alleged mistress, Elizabeth Creekmore-Byrd, charging her with alienation of affection.

The accusation of Pickering’s indiscretion comes just one month after Ensign’s scandal broke.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) referenced the house during a June 24 press conference in which he admitted to an adulterous relationship with an Argentine woman. Sanford frequented the Christian prayer house while he was a House Member.

“The problem is when you begin to talk about it in this light at this time it’s a loser, because all anybody wants to talk about is what Sanford mentioned — that he went there — and Ensign lives there, and that’s so unfortunate,” said a source who has attended the morning prayer breakfasts affiliated with C Street.

“These men are good men. They made mistakes and they’re paying for it. And that’s what these ministries are about,” said former Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio), who regularly visits C Street.

“These are public figures [who] want privacy, and they’re trying to learn how to practice their faith,” he added. “To be in public life can be lonely sometimes, and they need to build relationships and grow. That’s what C Street is about.”

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