The Church of Scientology’s friends in Washington

The embattled religious organization has allies in Congress, though it lobbies quietly

Topics: Scientology, War Room,

The Church of Scientology's friends in WashingtonClockwise from upper left: Mark Foley, Greta Van Susteren, Brad Sherman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Did you read that New Yorker piece on the Church of Scientology? You really have to. I know it’s long, but it’s worth it. If you’re short on time, there are a lot of summaries.

Along with some incredible new details, there are the previously reported stories of rampant physical abuse of underlings by church head David Miscavige, the church’s “Sea Org” full of underage workers signed to “billion-year contracts” performing manual labor for little to no money, and the tales of the church separating families and milking its members for thousands of dollars. The church is even under investigation by the FBI for what could amount to human trafficking.

And, of course, like any other moneymaking American enterprise, it has good friends in Washington.

As far as I know, the only Scientologist to ever actually serve in Congress was the late Sonny Bono. His widow, Mary Bono Mack, who inherited his seat, attended courses, but never took to the religion.

Former Rep. Ben Gilman, R-N.Y., received thousands from the church, and, in return, as chairman of the International Relations Committee, he complained on several occasions that European nations were discriminating against Scientology. Or, put another way: “[On] the same day (July 2, 1998), ten prominent Scientologists donated a total of $7,400 to Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman’s coffer — three months before he signed on as a co-sponsor to Matt Salmon’s House of Representatives bill that was critical of Germany’s protection of religious freedom …” He was also thanked with this glowing profile in the church’s Freedom magazine.

Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., are two of the church’s best friends currently serving in Congress. They were both honored at a 2004 Celebrity Centre gala. (Here’s Ros-Lehtinen with John Travolta and Kelly Preston, and here’s Brad Sherman praising the church publicly.)



The church avoids “official” political donations (it is, after all, a tax-exempt religious organization), but prominent members still support politicians and politicians return the favor. Florida’s Mark Foley was a Scientology ally. (It was rumored that he checked into a church-affiliated recovery center after his resignation from Congress.) As a state legislator, Nevada’s Sharron Angle supported a Scientology-affiliated drug treatment therapy program for prisoners.

Craig Jensen, founder of the software company Diskeeper, and his wife, Sally Jensen, are major Scientologists, and their donations help identify which politicians are friendliest to the church. Former congressman James E. Rogan, now a Bush-appointed judge on the Superior Court of California, received thousands of dollars from prominent Scientologists throughout the 1990s. Even Ron Paul gets Scientology love, because he supports its tax-exempt status and opposes mental health screening for children.

And, of course, Sarah Palin is personal friends with prominent Scientologists Greta Van Susteren and her husband, attorney John Coale. Coale helped Palin start her PAC — and he once proposed starting a Scientology PAC, in the 1980s. At the time, the idea fizzled out.

But Scientology actually had a semi-open PAC for a few years, called “Citizens for Social Reform.” The church hasn’t donated anything in the last two cycles, but before that, it gave to the following pols:

  • Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill. (also a friend of the Reverend Moon)
  • Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
  • Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y.
  • Rep. Dylan Glenn, R-Ga.

The church has had, throughout its history, plenty of friends on both sides of the aisle. Or, at least, plenty of people willing to cash its checks. Few prominent politicians, that I know of, have said much about the things we’ve learned about the church more recently.

[Correction: Judge James Rogan serves on the Superior Court of California. He was nominated for the seat by then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, and won election to the seat in 2008. He was nominated by President Bush for a seat on the U.S. District Court, but his nomination stalled in the Senate. I apologize for the error.]

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>