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  U.S. Rep. Pete Stark "Comes Out" As An AtheistSeptember 28, 2007 19:22 "Coming out" as the first openly nontheist member of the United States Congress, Representative Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-CA) quipped, "I'm pleased that I'm in Cambridge and not in Salem!" On September 20, 2007, Congressman Stark spoke publicly for the first time about his atheism to an audience of approximately 300 members of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, the Harvard Law School Heathen Society, and various other atheist, agnostic, secular, humanist, and nonreligious groups. The Boston Globe was also on hand to cover the event.

Stark, who is a Unitarian, is the highest-ranking American politician to openly declare that he is nontheist. Although Stark denies a belief in a god, he was quick to note that the Stark family does recognize a supreme being: Mrs. Stark.

Congressman Stark regaled the audience with anecdotes about his life and his background, noting that he "was born poor enough so that I never slept alone until I was married." Before running for office, Congressman Stark was a successful bank executive, a member of the U.S. Air Force, and a leader of a Unitarian Universalist seminary. As Stark explained it, he was not at all interested in a supreme being, but was instead interested in people.

When Stark won his congressional seat in 1971, religion simply was not at the forefront of most people's minds. Religion only surfaced on occasion, he noted, like when his congressional colleagues wanted to have 'prayer breakfasts'. Religion began to enter the public debate more forcefully in the 1980s, which is, Congressman Stark speculated, when televangelists and politicians discovered that they could use religion to raise money and increase power.

Even with the apparent resurgence of religion in the public debate, Congressman Stark denied that religion has much impact in actual politics. The leading candidates all agree that they believe in a supreme being, Congressman Stark observed, but they all forget about it as soon as they are elected.
  Former Prostitute Details Vitter AffairSeptember 12, 2007 15:41 A woman who once worked as a prostitute in New Orleans said Tuesday that Senator David Vitter had sex with her several times a week from July to November 1999, shortly after he was elected to Congress.

Wendy Yow Ellis said she met Vitter through an escort service and saw him two to three times a week in an apartment at Dauphine and Dumaine streets in the French Quarter. Vitter was elected to the U.S. House in May 1999 and sworn in to office June 8.

At first, Ellis said, he knew her only by her stage name: Leah.

Ellis said the affair ended "abruptly" when she gave him her real name. She shares a first name with his wife, Wendy Baldwin Vitter.

"When I asked him if he would like to carry this beyond the business, I gave him my name and phone number. I said, 'My real name is Wendy,' and he said, 'Oh my God,'" Ellis recalled. "I did see him a few times at the club I danced at after that. He just kind of gave me a look of disbelief."

Ellis, 34, spoke at a press conference in Beverly Hills hosted by Larry Flynt, the publisher of the magazine Hustler. Flynt uncovered Vitter's phone number in the records of a Washington, D.C., escort service this summer, and he will pay Ellis to share details of her trysts with Vitter in the magazine.
  Sen. Larry Craig Vows To Stay In Office, Idaho Republican Determined To Save Senate Seat If Guilty Plea Is ReversedSeptember 06, 2007 07:31 To the dismay of fellow Republicans, Sen. Larry Craig launched a determined drive to save his seat on Wednesday, vowing to stay in office if allowed to withdraw his guilty plea in a men's room sex sting.

Craig's campaign suffered an instant setback, however, when the ethics committee refused to set aside a complaint lodged against him. "Pending Sen. Craig's resignation, the committee will continue to review this matter," the committee's senior senators wrote.

Craig had the following reaction today to a letter sent from the Senate Ethics Committee to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to the statement released by his office:

“It is my intent to fight the case before the Ethics Committee while I am a sitting Senator. I would prefer to have that case resolved on its merits.

“The letter sent today from the Committee to Senator McConnell does not address the arguments laid out by my attorney earlier today. I hope that Committee addresses those arguments sooner, rather than later, so that I can have my name cleared.”

Craig's decision to deploy his legal team marked a reversal of his pledge to resign on Sept. 30, and raised the possibility of a protracted legal and political struggle, much of it playing out in public, with gay sex at its core.
  Craig, Not Gay, But Not a Senator EitherSeptember 01, 2007 10:35 This could be disastrous if Kemthorne or some other rightwing bozo makes it into this seat and then becomes an incumbant.

Idaho's Republican Sen. Larry Craig bowed to the inevitable pressure of his political party today and officially announced his retirement from the U.S. Senate effective Sept. 30.

In an emotional and somber news conference in Boise, in stark contrast to the defiant posture he took Tuesday, Craig stood with his wife Suzanne and two of their three children and numerous political supporters. The 62-year-old Craig, who was arrested for lewd behavior in a Minneapolis airport mens room in June and pled guilty to disorderly conduct later, apologized to his family, staff, Senate colleagues and fellow Idahoans.

His statement was met by a smattering of jeers and applause from the crowd of 200 gathered in a parking lot on a sunny summer Saturday overlooking downtown Boise. A supporter yelled, "We love you, Larry." Craig thanked the numerous officials and supporters who were standing around him and apologized to the people of Idaho for being unable to complete his term, which ends in January 2009. Until this week he was a presumed shoo-in for re-election next November.

But Craig said the distraction of pursuing his legal options as senator would prevent him from giving fulltime to his duties. "I have little control over what people choose to believe," he said. "But to pursue my legal options would be an unwarranted and unfair distraction. These are serious times for our nation."

"It is with sadness and deep regret," he added, "that I announce my intent to resign from the Senate Sept. 30. I hope to allow a smooth transition."