Friday, July 24, 2009

Rachel Maddow Questions Wamp-Ensign Connection Again

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 5:59 AM

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is at it again, hammering Zach Wamp for his association with that shadowy Christian society known as the Fellowship. This time, she's upset because he took $5,000 in campaign cash from Nevada Sen. John Ensign eight days after Ensign admitted cheating on his wife. She wonders whether Wamp was one of the members of Congress living in the Fellowship's C Street house who supposedly suggested and/or directed the funneling of nearly $100,000 in cash from Ensign's parents to his mistress and her family. "And was the $5,000 he got from Senator Ensign barely a week later part of the same plan?" Maddow asks. Wamp's office isn't talking. Here's the transcript from this week's show with Maddow's monologue about Wamp, plus her Q&A with Washington Post columnist Gene Robinson about whether any of this will hurt the congressman's campaign for governor.
Rachel Maddow

But other shoes keep dropping in the Senator Ensign scandal--and we now have news that just eight days after the public announcement of his own affair, Senator Ensign gave a $5,000 contribution to one of his C Street housemates, Congressman Zach Wamp. Ensign's political action committee made the contribution on June 24th. Congressman Wamp's campaign committee accepted the contribution five days later, on June 29th. So far, Congressman Wamp has not returned that money.

Zach Wamp, of course, is a conservative family values Republican. He is campaigning for governor in Tennessee, in part on his enthusiasm for the sanctity of marriage.

When the John Ensign scandal broke, Mr. Wamp told "The Knoxville News Sentinel," quote, "These are trying times, and obviously, with Senator Ensign and Governor Sanford, everybody is disappointed. There's no doubt about that." Not so disappointed, of course, that they would turn down his money however.

He also said, quote, "I hate it that John Ensign lives in the house and this happened because it opens up all these kinds of questions." But, he also told the "News Sentinel" of Knoxville, quote, "I'm not going to be the guy who goes out and talks."

One of the major unanswered questions about the role of this secretive C Street group in the Ensign scandal is whether the other members of Congress who lived at C Street, who studied there, had a role in the funneling of nearly $100,000 in cash from Senator Ensign's parents to his mistress and her family. The mistress's husband, Doug Hampton, says that the payments were suggested by and directed by the other members of Congress who were living at C Street.

So, did Congressman Wamp help come up with the plan to pay off Senator Ensign's mistress in this sex scandal? And was the $5,000 he got from Senator Ensign barely a week later part of the same plan?

We called Congressman Wamp's office today with that question. We also asked if he was supporting Senator Ensign's bid for re-election to the Senate. So far, we've had no word back.

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MADDOW: With Congressman Wamp, we now have a member of Congress who's very ambitious, who's running for governor in Tennessee. He wants to be a rising star in the Republican Party. And he told the local press in Tennessee that he doesn't think that belonging to this group will be a problem for him, because it's a Christian group--and having a religious affiliation, a Christian religious affiliation, for Tennessee voters isn't going to be an issue.

But it does seem to me like that there's a political liability to admit that you're a part of a group through which you learn about some other official members of Congress' misconduct, but you're bound by the secrecy of this group and by the loyalty you have to this group to not tell the public. It seems like there may be an extent as to which people associated with this group are compromised by that affiliation.

ROBINSON: Well, exactly. And the problem, really, is the group aspect of it.

And, again, you can understand a friend not wanting to talk about private conversations he might have had, you know, with a good friend about marital troubles. And now, whether or not it's legitimate for a congressman to fail to disclose that sort of stuff, it depends on the circumstances, but at least you can kind of understand it.

When the answer, on the other hand, is that, "Well, I'm not going to tell you because I don't want to rat out the other members of my group and, you know, I don't want to be the guy who goes out and talks," that sort of thing--then it certainly raises the issue of divided loyalties and, you know, we sent you to Congress to represent us, we didn't send you to represent whatever this group is.

I think that's a problem. And I think it will be a problem even in a Bible belt state like Tennessee. I think that's a problem.

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