Inhofe Defends Church Missionary being paid as Senate Aide
Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe is standing by a part-time adviser after it was revealed that the adviser remains on staff at the Assemblies of God church as a Christian missionary to Africa.
Though Inhofe accepted the resignation of two part-time staff members last week over separate concerns, spokesman Jared Young said the senator has no intention of letting Mark Powers, his director of African affairs, go. […]
OK, so what is the problem?
According to Senate rules, Senate employees are prohibited from accepting any outside employment that could pose a conflict of interest. The official Senate ethics manual says this language covers even “the appearance of a conflict.”
But [Inhofe spokesman] Young said Powers’ outside work does not present such a conflict.
Deborah Sherman, administrative assistant to the church’s Africa regional director, also said Powers works “very hard” to keep those two roles separate. Powers worked as a missionary in Africa for Assemblies of God for over a decade before settling in the Washington, D.C., area with his family.
So, because Powers works “very hard” at keeping his roles separate then we can just ignore the Senate rules?
Sherman described his position with the church as full-time, but said he’s not a missionary in the “traditional” sense. She said he does not evangelize and focuses more on humanitarian issues, acting as a cultural “specialist” on the region. […]
So Powers is “full-time” working as a missionary for the Assemblies of God and yet also draw a part time salary from Sen. Inhofe, and somehow there is no conflict?
Though the Republican senator is sticking by his adviser, he just accepted resignations from two other aides.
Hmmm… it’s starting to look like there is a trend here.
From where did Fox get this story?
Charles Sublett, an Inhofe legal assistant, left the payroll after the newspaper Roll Call asked Inhofe’s office about nearly $7,000 in contributions the part-time staffer made to Inhofe’s campaigns. Congressional employees are prohibited from making political contributions to their bosses.
Another part-timer, military adviser Jerry Holmes, also resigned.
Ok, so let’s look at the Roll Call story:
Sen. James Inhofe last week terminated two part-time staffers after Roll Call raised questions about their employment, but the Oklahoma Republican continues to employ a part-time director of African affairs who earns the rest of his income as a missionary in the Africa division of the Assemblies of God church.
Full stop. The Fox story, which credits Roll Call, claims Inhofe accepted resignations, while the Roll Call story itself says Inhofe fired them. Hmmmm…. What is the truth? It’s a bit of a minor part of this story, but it does show how important it is to follow sources, especially when Fox News is involved.
Inhofe has had the three men on his staff for years. In 2000, Charles Sublett came aboard as a legal assistant and Jerry Holmes joined the staff as a military adviser. Sublett is paid $5,000 a year and Holmes makes $9,500 a year, according to payroll records maintained by LegiStorm. Mark Powers joined the staff in 2001 and is now earning about $15,000 a year as director of African affairs.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Sublett has also donated $6,850 to Inhofe’s re-election campaigns since joining his staff, a violation of Senate rules prohibiting staff from donating to their bosses. […]
In an interview last week, Inhofe said he was unaware of the campaign donations until Roll Call brought it to his attention. “We will give back the contributions,” Inhofe said, and he is taking Holmes and Sublett off the payroll.
Inhofe said he and Sublett are both pilots, and they fly together to military bases in the state. “So he does that, more than the legal part,” the lawmaker said.
So, Sublett works for Inhofe and the two fly together, but Inhofe never knew Sublett donated to his campaigns. Okay-dokey…
Back to Powers - how did he get on Inhofe’s dole anyway?
Powers is a more complicated case.
Inhofe is ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, but his passion is for African development. A story in the Oklahoman newspaper in late 2008 quoted the Senator as describing his many trips to Africa as “a Jesus thing” and noted that his focus was fostered by the International Foundation, a faith-based group that is connected to the “C Street” townhouse where several Members of Congress live.
The House’s Office of Congressional Ethics recently dismissed allegations that the foundation was providing below-market rent to several Members at the Capitol Hill residence.
Inhofe has said that he was first persuaded in the late 1990s to become engaged in African issues by his friend Doug Coe, head of the International Foundation. The foundation is popularly known as “The Family,” the title of a book about the group by reporter and author Jeff Sharlet.
In a video posted on the website of the group Faith and Action, Inhofe said his first visit to Africa was a 1998 trip, arranged by Coe, which he took with his daughter and Powers, who lived in Africa for many years as an Assemblies of God missionary.
Inhofe told Roll Call last week that he never declared that trip as a gift from Coe or the International Foundation on his personal financial disclosure forms because, while Coe paid for the trip initially, “then I contributed to some foundation — I don’t remember what it was — the amount of the tickets for myself and my daughter, so I didn’t think it was necessary” to report it as a gift.
In September 2002, Inhofe gave speeches at three Oklahoma churches and had the congregations donate the honorariums to the International Foundation; […]
So, there is a long history of Inhofe continuing to perform his religious activities while in the Senate. And not just any religious activities, but associating with the apparently ubiquitous Doug Coe. And, the Senator sounds quite comfortable with making up justifications for acceptances of gifts from his missionary buddies, without consulting a tax attorney or the Senate’s ethics committee.
Within a few weeks of his hiring, Powers joined the Senator on a trip to Africa. The Senate Armed Services Committee reported that the government spent a little more than $12,000 for the two men on that trip.
The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World both reported shortly before that trip that Inhofe was planning to join a Congressional delegation to Africa being led by then-Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and that the Senator intended to do missionary work on the side. The Tulsa World reported that Inhofe “hopes to join up with the House delegation for some of the official visits, but he also plans to use the trip for what his office described as private religious missionary work.”
But Inhofe said all of his travel in Africa has been official business, even though he frequently engages in prayer and conversations about faith with the African leaders.
So now we see why Inhofe so far hasn’t let Powers go - Inhofe himself easily mixes his Senate duties with his private religious activities. I guess Inhofe is a Senator from 9 to 5 and after 5 it’s all his time, no?
Problem is, the reverse is not true! That is the whole point of the Senate rule against conflicts of interests of staff. That Powers is a “full time” missionary and a part time staffer is incongruent with the spirit behind the Senate rules. Yet Inhofe fails to see this, probably because he’s been doing it all the time.
This is the story behind all of what Inhofe does, from his anti-science agenda to his anti-gay rhetoric to his interest in Africa - Inhofe is on a religious mission, and that is why he employs a missionary on his staff.
ADDENDUM: Just changed the title, as I realize I unwittingly was propagating the Fox spin by using their twisted title.