Presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and several other Democrats will not be hosting this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, according to copies of the invitation posted on social media and authenticated by the event’s sponsor.
In the past, Klobuchar has been more than a name on the letterhead. In 2017 — when the Family facilitated Russian attendance — it was Klobuchar who delivered the closing prayer. She spoke at the event as long ago as 2008 and Tweeted as recently as this summer about having co-chaired it.
Attending the Feb. 6 breakfast could carry political risk for some Democrats. Pres. Obama was criticized, for instance, by LGBTQ groups for addressing the breakfast despite reports about its sponsor’s involvement in anti-gay legislation in Uganda. Snubbing the breakfast could carry its own risks. Klobuchar did not respond to a request for comment and it's not clear whether she is still planning to attend or participate.
This year’s invitation lists 19 Republican members of Congress as hosts and 14 Democrats, slightly more disparate than last year, when 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats hosted.
The annual event has been a nonpartisan event even in years when its sponsor — an Arlington-based Christian group called the Fellowship Foundation, also known as The Family — made headlines for its role in various members’ scandals. The organization itself has also come under scrutiny from both journalists and law enforcement.
Most notably, the FBI said that a leader of the group let Russian operatives invite guests to the high-powered breakfast. TYT reported last year that an affiliate organization reported making expenditures related to the Russians’ attendance.
The Family was also the subject of a 2019 Netflix documentary series based on the work of journalist and author Jeff Sharlet.
In response to TYT’s reporting — which also revealed that the group sponsored congressional travel including meetings with anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic leaders in Europe — Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) said they did not expect to attend last year.
At the time, Khanna told TYT he wanted to “make sure there are not any special interests or foreign influences on the event.” Lieu’s chief of staff, Marc Cevasco, said, “If there’s Russian influence on the Prayer Breakfast, we want to know about it.”
Asked about the partisan disparity at this year's event, National Prayer Breakfast Media Representative Larry Ross told TYT, “In terms of which Members are listed on the invitation, beyond the co-chair signatories, it is not based on party affiliation but at the discretion of the Member himself or herself, and generally includes individuals who regularly attend the weekly House and Senate Prayer Groups.”
Of 14 Democrats listed on last year’s invitation, only five appear on this year’s: Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Tom Carper (D-DE), and Reps. Charlie Crist (D-FL), Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Juan Vargas (D-CA).