NYT reports on lobbyists selling National Prayer Breakfast tickets to foreign leaders for as much as $220,000. Yay, NYT! As I wrote in THE FAMILY. Trying hard not to say “Told ya so.” And failing. https://t.co/NCHX25CDtc
— Jeff Sharlet (@JeffSharlet) July 27, 2018
With a lineup of prayer meetings, humanitarian forums and religious panels, the National Prayer Breakfast has long brought together people from all over the world for an agenda built around the teachings of Jesus.
But there on the guest list in recent years was Maria Butina, looking to meet high-level American officials and advance the interests of the Russian state, and Yulia Tymoshenko, a Ukranian opposition leader, seeking a few minutes with President Trump to burnish her credentials as a presidential prospect back home.
Their presence at the breakfast illuminates the way the annual event has become an international influence-peddling bazaar, where foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, diplomats and lobbyists jockey for access to the highest reaches of American power…
Lobbyists say the event has become even more of a coveted invitation in the Trump era, as foreign politicians scrambled to forge connections with a president who swept into office with few ties to the international community or Washington’s hierarchy of established foreign access brokers.
With its relative lack of diplomatic protocols and press coverage, the prayer breakfast setting is ideal for foreign figures who might not otherwise be able to easily get face time with top American officials, because of unsavory reputations or a lack of an official government perch, according to lobbyists who help arrange such trips. They also contend that it is easier to secure visas when the breakfast is listed as a destination.
At last year’s breakfast, Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, posted a photo on Instagram of himself seated next to Andrei Makarov, a member of the Russian Parliament who had pushed for tax breaks for Russians who faced sanctions. A spokesperson for Mr. Grassley said that the senator poses for many photos with people he meets at a range of events…
[Is it *my* fault there so many grifters, crooks & criminals hanging around the GOP?, asks Chuck.]
The congressional co-chairmen of the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast, Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, and Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, praised the gathering as one of the most important annual events in Washington.
“It is unfortunate that some have attended the Breakfast in the past for the wrong reasons,” they said in a statement to The Times. “Nevertheless, we’re as committed as ever to ensuring that the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast is a success and follows the tradition of being nonpartisan and unifying.”…
Yes, there are Democrats involved with The Fellowship as well, more shame to them — although it can be argued there’s a considerable distinction between Yulia Tymoshenko and Mariia Butina. We really do need to pull back the tax exemptions for “non-profit” quasi-religious groups like this, and I say this as a person of faith.