Pickering Affair Raises New Questions About ‘Revolving Door’ Of Secretive Fellowship Group

Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow reported the story that former Rep. Chip Pickering’s (R-MS) wife has filed a lawsuit against Pickering’s mistress Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd, exposing a long-running affair. Pickering, now a lobbyist for Capitol Resources LLC, campaigned on a platform of promising to bring family values to Washington. Pickering tried to force his own views on marriage upon the country by pushing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and using marriage as a cudgel to demand that President Bill Clinton resign:

— While engaged in the affair with Creekore Byrd, Pickering said of President Bill Clinton: “I think for the good of the country and the good of his own family it would be better for him to resign. When someone puts himself forward for public office, then his personal conduct does become relevant.” [Washington Times, 8/20/98]

— Pickering explained his support of a constitutional gay marriage ban, stating: “Marriage as an institution between one man and one woman promotes the best interest of the husband and wife, and the best interests of children.” [Mississippi Link, 7/20/06]

The suit filed by Pickering’s wife also alleges that Pickering pursued the affair while living in the “C Street Complex,” the boarding house for the secretive right-wing Christian group known as “the Fellowship.” Pickering’s former colleagues embroiled in similar scandals, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), were also members of the Fellowship.

Doug Coe, the group’s spiritual leader, once preached that the willingness to behead one’s own mother was a “covenant” tantamount to what “Jesus said.” The organization “Youth with a Mission” owns the C Street boarding house, which is registered tax-exempt as a church, advocates seizing the “mountain of government” as part of an evangelical crusade to advance the “kingdom of God.” Coe, who holds misogynist beliefs, once counseled a lawmaker that his wife — who complained of not being sexually satisfied — might be possessed by demons.

Speaking with Maddow about the influence of the Fellowship, author Jeff Sharlet noted that the complex operates as a “fundamentalist frat house” where “if you’re part of God’s chosen…morality, ethics, these things don’t apply to them.” He also noted Steve Largent, a former Oklahoma congressman and former resident of the C Street house, now president of a telecom trade group, arranged lobbyist-funded trips for other members in the group, including both Pickering and Ensign. Sharlet questioned the lawmaker-to-lobbyist “revolving door” that “seems to be facilitated by the family.” Watch it: