GOP Sen Ensign’s Sex Scandal Reaches the ‘Legally Wrong’ Stage
October 2, 2009
(ChattahBox)—Senator John Ensign’s (R-Nev) career as a lawmaker should be finished. A devastating article in Thursday’s New York Times lays out the case for Ensign’s alleged intentional and knowing violations of federal law and senate ethics rules intended to ban senior aides from lobbying the Senate for a year after leaving their positions.
Even if he manages to avoid criminal charges and hold on to his job, Ensign, who was once considered as a serious presidential contender, should no longer be taken seriously as a reputable lawmaker.
When Ensign admitted to an extramarital affair in June with an aide, who also happened to be married to another Ensign aide, he was blasted for his hypocritical behavior, as a Republican who preached family values.
He voted to impeach former President Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, but insisted his affair was different than Clinton’s. Ensign claimed he didn’t break any laws during his salacious affair with the wife of his best friend, Doug Hampton. “I haven’t done anything legally wrong,” he said to the Associated Press.
Well, his extramarital affair has now reached the “legally wrong” stage.
In his efforts to clean up the mess he made, he removed Doug and Cindy Hampton from his employ, and contacted friends and business associates to find Doug Hampton a job as a political consultant. Ensign then secured lobbying clients for Hampton and proceeded to allegedly use his influence to benefit the clients at the instance of Hampton.
Ensign later designated his chief of staff to personally deal with Hampton and involved Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), as well.
“In the coming months, the senator arranged for Mr. Hampton to join a political consulting firm and lined up several donors as his lobbying clients, according to interviews, e-mail messages and other records. Mr. Ensign and his staff then repeatedly intervened on the companies’ behalf with federal agencies, often after urging from Mr. Hampton.”
Ensign denies breaking any laws, saying that any assistance given to companies was business as usual for the Senator. “I am confident we fully complied with the relevant laws and rules governing current and past employees. I have worked on these Nevada issues with these Nevada companies for years, long before Doug Hampton left my office,” said Ensign in a statement.
Ensign’s office also stated that the Senator’s efforts to secure Doug Hampton a job were “only recommendation calls” and that the senator’s actions in support of his former aide’s clients were “not at the behest of Mr. Hampton.”
However, “[s]everal experts say those activities may have violated an ethics law that bars senior aides from lobbying the Senate for a year after leaving their posts.”
“Mr. Hampton said he and Mr. Ensign were aware of the lobbying restriction but chose to ignore it. He recounted how the senator helped him find clients and ticked off several steps Mr. Ensign took to assist them with their agendas in Washington, activities confirmed by federal officials and executives with the businesses.”
“The only way the clients could get what John was essentially promising them — which was access — was if I still had a way to work with his office,” Mr. Hampton said. “And John knew that.”
The NY Times piece outlines the instances of Ensign allegedly interceding on behalf of the lobbying clients he obtained for Doug Hampton.
“After requests from Mr. Hampton, Mr. Ensign called the secretary of transportation last year to plead the case for a Nevada airline, Allegiant Air, which was under investigation for allegedly overcharging for tickets. In April, he arranged for Mr. Hampton and his clients to meet the new transportation secretary in a successful effort to resolve a dispute with a foreign competitor.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky) declined to publicly support Ensign when asked about the allegations made in the front-page NY Times article. “Sen. Ensign continues to serve,” said McConnel. The Senator then added that he does not have “any observations to make about the Ensign matter.”
Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), chairwoman of the ethics panel said an ethics investigation has now been open to investigate Ensign’s actions.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has previously asked the Senate to launch an investigation into Ensign’s affair to no avail. But Sloan now plans to renew a demand for an investigation and plans to ask that the Senate investigate Senator Coburn’s actions, as well.
Mr. Ensign looks like toast to me and he should resign,” said Sloan.
There is much more in the extensive 4,000-word NY Times piece.