Chip Pickering's Wife Claims He Had Affair
JACKSON, Miss. — The estranged wife of former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering claims in a lawsuit that the Mississippi Republican had an affair that ruined their marriage and derailed his political career.
Leisha Pickering said in the lawsuit filed this week that her husband and the woman dated in college, reconnected and began having an affair while he was in Congress and living in a building where several Christian lawmakers reside on C Street near the U.S. Capitol. Chip Pickering is the third Republican with ties to the building at 133 C Street SE to find his personal life making headlines in recent weeks, after Nevada U.S. Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
Leisha Pickering is seeking unspecified damages in the alienation of affection lawsuit she filed this week against Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd of Jackson. The Pickerings filed for divorce in June 2008, but it is not complete.
Chip Pickering, 45, was elected to Congress in 1996, retired in January and is now a lobbyist in Washington for Cellular South, the company Creekmore Byrd's family owns. The lawsuit does not say when the affair started.
He said in a statement Thursday that his marriage is irreparably damaged.
"I still believe it is in the best interest of our five boys if our differences are resolved privately and before the appropriate court and not in the media," Pickering said.
He cast himself as a defender of decency, particularly on television and the Internet, and was among House members urging then-President George W. Bush to declare 2008 "the National Year of the Bible."
Another lawmaker who lived at the C Street house, Ensign, a member of the Christian ministry Promise Keepers, stepped down from the Senate Republican leadership in June after admitting he had an affair for much of last year with a woman on his campaign staff.
Just days after the story broke, South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford admitted an affair with a woman in Argentina. He apparently never lived in the house, but has said he turned to "C Street" for counsel and solace while having the affair.
The building, registered in tax records as a religious and commercial building, is affiliated with a Christian group that sponsors the annual National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, members of Congress and other dignitaries. Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress live there.
Leisha Pickering's lawsuit also says that when Republican Trent Lott resigned from the U.S. Senate in December 2007, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour offered the seat to Chip Pickering, who declined. Barbour spokesman Laura Hipp said Thursday that the governor only offered the Senate seat to U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, who accepted it.
The lawsuit contends that Creekmore Byrd gave Pickering an ultimatum, saying their relationship could not continue if he became a senator because he would have to stay married.
"Ultimately, Creekmore Byrd gave Pickering the option to remain a public servant or become a private citizen and continue relations with her," the lawsuit says.
The voice mail box at Creekmore Byrd's home was full Thursday and messages left for her divorce attorney were not immediately returned.
The 45-year-old is a member of Mississippi's wealthy Creekmore family, founders of the Cellular South phone company.
She and several relatives and Cellular South executives donated to Pickering while he was in Congress, and he had kind words for the company at a 2007 subcommittee hearing where invited speakers included Cellular South president Victor Meena.
He announced in August 2007 that he wouldn't seek another term. After leaving office in January, he joined the lobbying firm Capitol Resources LLC, in which one of Barbour's nephews is a partner. The firm, which counts Cellular South among its clients, lists Pickering as a member of its Washington and Mississippi teams.
In the House, Pickering specialized in telecommunications issues, including one dear to Cellular South: making sure Congress took into account the interests of cellular companies serving rural areas.
Creekmore Byrd and her husband, Dr. Douglas Byrd, were married in 1990 but stopped living together in June 2006. They were granted a divorce in 2007 on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
So, not only is he another of the "C Street" brethren who apparently have "Thou shalt screw around on Thy wife" as a commandment, but he also was working as a lobbyist for the company that his mistress' family owns?? That's just......wow. I'm almost impressed at the utter nerve that takes.