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November 23, 2017

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Jon Ralston notes C Street influence may be keeping Ensign quiet

“These men were the ones that said what we need to do is get Doug Hampton's home paid for, and we need to get Doug Hampton some money. We need to get his family to Colorado.” --Doug Hampton, former aide to Sen. John Ensign, “Face to Face,” 7/8/09

These men, these men of Christ, these men of C Street, these Family men who always preach morality and occasionally practice infidelity told Sen. John Ensign in February 2008 to give his cuckolded aide money and help him relocate.

So Doug Hampton has asserted. And Jeff Sharlet, who knows more about The Family than any outsider, thinks Hampton is telling the truth, and believes this conclave was grooming Ensign for greatness because of his telegenic presence and upward mobility within the Club of 100.

“I have no reason to disbelieve Doug Hampton,” Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, said Thursday on “Face to Face.” “ When you go to a place like C Street, you become a member of what The Family in their internal documents call ‘prayer cells,’ an outlandish word, but that's their term for it. That's what (Oklahoma Sen. Tom) Coburn and Ensign and (Kansas Sen. Sam) Brownback, all these guys... what it is is a small, private meeting of like-minded men who believe that their prayers are better heard by God if they pray with men of equal status and power.”

The Hamptons never made it to Colorado despite the apparent blessing of The Family. But two months after that meeting at C Street, according to the senator, his parents gave the Hamptons $96,000 as a parting gift for their son’s affair with Cindy Hampton. The Hamptons settled into an expensive house in a tony Summerlin neighborhood, leading a quiet life until Doug Hampton forced John Ensign to publicly acknowledge the affair.

The issue of the payments – and Ensign has refused to provide any evidence that they occurred as he said they did – has become central to the scandal Ensign is trying to contain. Hampton flatly asserted more than once on “Face to Face” that Coburn was there in the C Street room when Ensign was confronted about his affair. There was a “belief from Tom Coburn and many that some restitution needs to take place here,” Hampton claimed.

After the Hampton interview, Coburn at first issued a mild chastisement of Ensign and then came forth with an assault on Hampton, essentially calling him a liar. So based on Sharlet’s experience and research on a group he describes in a book as hiding in plain sight in the corridors of capital power, with fealty to the Family above all else, whom does he believe?

“I think Hampton is telling the truth,” Sharlet said. “I think one clue that Coburn might not be telling the truth is he then comes on and says, 'That guy's lying, basically. But, I'm not going to tell you what really happened. I'm going to maintain this secrecy.'”

The question – or one of them – raised by all of this is whether The Family did not want to jeopardize its big plans for Ensign and decided to help him cover up the affair by suggesting he give the Hamptons some money.

Sharlet finds that perfectly within the outlines of The Family’s behavior.

“The Family, they have this idea that what they're doing, that they're called by God to do is to disciple politicians, is to help them get ready for prime time,” he said on the program. “Take a politician who they believe is chosen by God for his position, and you polish that guy up.”

That guy in this example is Ensign, whom Sharlet met once during his time researching The Family.

“When you look at Ensign's legislative record, it's not terribly impressive,” Sharlet pointed out. “He was a guy I think they appreciated almost more for his superficial qualities….He was not spoken of as an intellectual heavyweight within the Family. I mean, there are ideologues involved with the Family. I think Ensign was much more kind of the figure they liked to cultivate, who is indeed polished. There's no question of that.”

Of course the polish has now rubbed off with the scandalous revelations. And with every day Ensign remains silent, the tarnish gets blacker.

The senator is not being forthcoming about C Street and what went on or about those payments and whether he can prove they were gifts. He’s simply not talking.

Perhaps The Family and God have told him he does not have to.

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