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Tilting at Windmills

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October 2, 2009

THE OTHER SHOE DROPS ON ENSIGN.... When Sen. John Ensign's (R-Nev.) sex scandal first broke in June, it seemed as if it were merely humiliating. Here was a right-wing Republican, who preached "family values" and touted his Christian faith, having an extra-marital affair with an aide -- who was also the wife of another aide. When we learned that the senator's parents tried to pay off the mistress' family, the controversy appeared even worse.

The question, though, was whether the salacious scandal was more than just a personal fiasco. This morning, in an impressive piece of reporting, the New York Times helps move the story from merely repulsive to probably illegal.

Early last year, Senator John Ensign contacted a small circle of political and corporate supporters back home in Nevada -- a casino designer, an airline executive, the head of a utility and several political consultants -- seeking work for a close friend and top Washington aide, Douglas Hampton. [...]

The job pitch left out one salient fact: the senator was having an affair with Mr. Hampton's wife, Cynthia, a campaign aide. The tumult that the liaison was causing both families prompted Mr. Ensign, a two-term Republican, to try to contain the damage and find a landing spot for Mr. Hampton.

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.

While the affair made national news in June, the role that Mr. Ensign played in assisting Mr. Hampton and helping his clients has not been previously disclosed. Several 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.

In acknowledging the affair, Mr. Ensign cast it as a personal transgression, not a professional one. But an examination of his conduct shows that in trying to clean up the mess from the illicit relationship and distance himself from the Hamptons, he entangled political supporters, staff members and Senate colleagues, some of whom say they now feel he betrayed them.

There are all kinds of ethics laws and lobbying rules intended to prevent the very actions Ensign seems to have taken. The Republican senator personally intervened with private companies to help land lobbying jobs for his mistress' husband, and then proceeded to use his Senate office to do favors for those companies that cooperated.

Indeed, Ensign assigned his chief of staff to deal with the mistress' husband directly. The law prohibits "senior aides from lobbying the Senate for a year after leaving their posts," but Ensign didn't care. "Mr. Hampton said he and Mr. Ensign were aware of the lobbying restriction but chose to ignore it."

The story is just devastating for Ensign. It's worth taking some time to read the whole thing.

Back in July, Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas was asked for a reaction to the Ensign sex scandal. "It's not good," Cornyn said. Asked if Ensign can recover, Cornyn added, "I just don't know the answer to that."

That was three months ago, long before this severely damaging revelations surfaced.

If propriety still has any meaning, John Ensign's career is finished. Given what we've learned, his ability to function as an effective lawmaker is a thing of the past.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

Interesting that'the media'-MSNBC,at least- is all over the Letterman Confession this morning, while it is silent on the Ensign Criminal Behavior.

One can hope-and Progressives are ever hopeful (naive?) that this will change as the day goes on. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 2, 2009 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

I dont think anything is going to come of it. We are in an age where people like Sara Taylor are sought after despite their background. Senate is not going to do anything. Reid is almost spineless. But who knows, may be Ensign will support public option just to gain support from Dems.

Posted by: Ajay on October 2, 2009 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

Probably the ultimate judgment will come from Nevada. These guys (Vitter, Jefferson, etc.) have shown they can stay in office forever as long as Washington has the only say over their career. Maybe this will push the electorate of Nevada firmly against him. Otherwise, my guess is he'll survive just fine.

Posted by: NHCt on October 2, 2009 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Ensign? Ensign? Ah, yes, the paragon of virtue the GOP has fostered! The man who "took out" car accidents and accidents from gun ownership, because Americans love their guns, in order to assist US statistical performance on length-of-life.

Great guy, that Ensign. Seems he's still under the protective wings of his parents. Good. Good.

Posted by: SteinL on October 2, 2009 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

If propriety still has any meaning, John Ensign's career is finished. Given what we've learned, his ability to function as an effective lawmaker is a thing of the past.

But with the current state of "journalism" in the corporate-controlled media, Ensign's story won't get more than a passing mention and will be completely forgotten next week when Republicans break the "scandal" that one of Obama's staff once attended a concert by the rap group N.W.A.


Posted by: SteveT on October 2, 2009 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, Steve! You're so funny! Ensign resign? Why? He is, after all, a Republican. It's OK if you're a Republican. No problem at all, even if it's illegal.

As I'm sure Mitch McConnell will be reminding us shortly, any prosecution coming out of this will just be a purely partisan political witch hunt with no foundation. Best we should just ignore it. And I'm equally sure Harry Reid will take that to heart, since Harry never ever wants to seem confrontational.

Posted by: Domage on October 2, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

The hypocrisy on Morning Joe is sickening, Ensign fine, Letterman terrible - since when did Letterman preach family values to us?

Posted by: JS on October 2, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

The Ballad of John Ensign

Out of Nevada came a Senator named John.
Poor Nevada boy, barely kept his family fed.
Out of Nevada came a Senator named John.
Family values guy, going to keep our families safe.

Poor Nevada boy, got a fetish for an aide’s wife.
Bonked her good, got the thrill of his life.
Out of Nevada, got caught doing the aide’s wife.
Family values guy, going to keep the aide’s family safe.

Poor Nevada boy, knew exactly what to do.
Family values guy, used his parents’ money to set them free.
Poor Nevada boy, knew exactly what to do.
Voice of morality, set up a lobby firm with the guy.

Poor Nevada boy, knew exactly what to do.
Sent companies to the lobby firm to hire the guy.
Voice of morality, knew exactly what to do.
Sent government money to companies that hired the guy.

Out of Nevada came a Senator named John.
Family values guy, going to keep our families safe.
Voice of morality, who’s he going to blame.
Never would have happened, except for the Clinton shame.

Posted by: AmusedOldVet on October 2, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

If propriety still has any meaning, John Ensign's career is finished. Given what we've learned, his ability to function as an effective lawmaker is a thing of the past.

He's a Republican, God forgives him. You act like he is one of those evil liberals who deserve the death penalty for everything from speeding to talking back to cops.

Posted by: Shalimar on October 2, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

He can just say that he has repented his sins and everything will be fine.....there you have it.

Posted by: fred on October 2, 2009 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

I just hate it when some Republican lets himself, his country, and me down like this. We are all so disappointed in Mr. Ensign. I hope he's ashamed of the mess he's created. We can all help. (him feel ashamed)

Posted by: anonymous on October 2, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

What you liberal idiots fail to understand...

Senator Ensign, Senator Vitter, Governor Sanford, et. al. are pillars of morality who were entrapped by The Chosen One and the democrat party. It is our good fortune that they have seen the light and have been guided back into the path of morality by our Republican leaders.

As our Republican religious leadership and guiding lights will tell you, they have confessed to being misled by the democrats and have been forgiven. Atonement is possible for Christians. It is too bad that you democrats are all anti-Christ and can never be forgiven.

Additionally, everyone knows that none of these would have happened were it not for the immorality of Bill Clinton. Even Newt will attest to that!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on October 2, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Ensign is a Republican. Why on earth would he need to "function as an effective lawmaker"?

Posted by: American in Exile on October 2, 2009 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Delmar O'Donnell (Ensign): But they was witnesses that seen us redeemed.
Ulysses Everett McGill(Left Blogostan): That's not the issue Delmar. Even if that did put you square with the Lord, the State of Mississippi's a little more hard-nosed.

Yes, Delmar is now Senator from Nevada, and Tom Coburn is the Preacher that washed away his sins.

Nothing to see here, move along...

Posted by: BuzzMon on October 2, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

From CBS Morning Show just now:
interviewer: Let me ask you this, because David is a comedian, does he get, I don't want to say a free pass, but is he perceived a little bit differently for lets say a politician if he were to come out for something like this?

celebrity p.r. expert guest: Well, this would be far worse if he were a preacher or a politician.


Earlier, the p.r. expert said you had to get out in front of the story as Letterman is doing. I guess if you don't do that, damaging revelations may come out later like they have with Ensign. Not that it matters. As you can probably guess, Letterman is CBS's lead news story of the day and Ensign hasn't even been mentioned while I was watching. It's all just bullshit, and the idiots reading the news don't even seem to really how full of crap they are.

Posted by: Shalimar on October 2, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

If propriety still has any meaning, John Ensign's career is finished. Given what we've learned, his ability to function as an effective lawmaker is a thing of the past.

Steve, Steve...don't you remember? IOKIYAR.

Posted by: Gregory on October 2, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

It isn't just that Ensign and Sanford are Republican politicians, who are sexual hypocrites in the mass; it's that, as members of The Family, they truly believe that God has chosen them to exercise authority over the great unwashed and that ordinary rules of conduct don't apply to them.

For crying out loud, their organization holds up Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and bin Laden as models of effective leadership. These guys aren't going to resign over a little lawbreaking and some ethics transgressions.

Posted by: shortstop on October 2, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

How effective do you have to be to vote No?

Posted by: martin on October 2, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

The 11th Commandment of the Beltway: sin isn't sin if you're a Republican.

Posted by: Midland on October 2, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

You know if he'd just paid the hooker straight up he wouldn't be in this situation. He had to go and do favors for the pimp. Jeez you'd think a guy from Nevada would know this.
..what kind of husband says "oh your fucking my wife? Just get me a plush job and some contacts and we're all good".
Disgusting all around.

Posted by: Ronald on October 2, 2009 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

The answer to my question above is.....a Family Values Republican. What a joke.

Posted by: Ronald on October 2, 2009 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

wanna bet?

Posted by: linda on October 2, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

If propriety still has any meaning, John Ensign's career is finished. Given what we've learned, his ability to function as an effective lawmaker is a thing of the past.

But, propriety has no meaning among politicians, especially Republicans. There are literally no consequences for bad behavior. And, of course, as a Republican Ensign has no expectations of acting as an "effective lawmaker" so that point is moot.

Posted by: Jack Lindahl on October 2, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Quote from the article: "Mr. Hampton said he and Mr. Ensign were aware of the lobbying restriction but chose to ignore it." (can't figure out how to italicize)

Here's an alternative: "Mrs. Hampton said she and Mr. Ensign were aware of the many admonitions in the Bible against committing adultery but chose to ignore them."

Posted by: revchicoucc on October 2, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

The Today Show also carried Letterman as their lead story. But then again, the Today Show spends about 47.8% of its 3 hour daily airtime talking about the latest freak show murder case, 2.7% on actual weight bearing news, and 50.5% on weather, concerts, latest greatest gadgets, and related fluff.

There you have it. Corporations carefully laying the groundwork for Idiocracy to be achieved far ahead of schedule in 2025.

Posted by: oh well on October 2, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Of course Letterman is going to get the attention. But Ensign may have committed a crime, and if that's so it can't be ignored.

At the very least, it's pass the popcorn time for anyone who enjoys seeing self-righteous, arrogant politicians sweat. Especially if they're of the R persuasion.

Posted by: nyc on October 2, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Ensign clearly broke laws. Sanford clearly broke laws. NOTHING will happen to either of them, and they will both be headliners and next year's Values Voters confab.

Because the modern Republican Party has created its own reality and the Democrats just let them get away with it.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on October 2, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, it really is too bad that Ensign (D-Nev.) got caught up in such debauchery. Now on to our lead story, Kevin Jennings' stunning advice to a 16 year boy that he should try homosexual relationships with older men and why is Obama putting him in charge of educating our children?

Posted by: FOXNews on October 2, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

That was supposed to be "at" next year's Values Voters confab.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on October 2, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, the standards for a GOP Senator are lower. Not only are they in the minority, they have chosen a strategy of mindless, shameless, self-contradictory opposition to all legislation offered by the Democrats and the Administration. Ensign never had any days of being an effective legislator and has never wanted to be. I've been watching him in the Finance Committee markup, and his role does not require much legislative savvy.
1. Find a part of the bill that asks someone somewhere to pay something and call it a TAX increase and segue to standard GOP tax rhetoric.
2. Find a part of the bill that changes something and then complain that Obama is not keeping his promise that if like what you have, you can keep it, because somebody somewhere must like what is being changed.
3. Take a rightwing social obsession and try to get some language into the bill that will cause the Democrats to vote against "strong measures against whatever" as in, "Democrats don't want to prevent child molesters from receiving medical treatment in hospitals that serve children" or better yet, "Democrats want child molesters to sponge bath your kids."
A lack of moral, ethical and policy judgement is a necessity for a GOP Senator, not an obstacle.

Posted by: Tom in Ma on October 2, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know if anything will ever come of this, but "Resign Ensign" or "Ensign Resign" make for snappy protest signs and slogans.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on October 2, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

If GOPers can start wars based on patently false pretext, killing hundreds of thousands of innocents and thousands of our troops, flushing trillions of dollars down the toilet, violating Geneva conventions, blatantly committing crimes against humanity (torture) while issuing mendacious apologia for it...

...then why do you thing they'll feel the tiniest scintilla of shame about ANYTHING? Let alone a bit of extramarital fucking and freelance corruption?

Sheesh!

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on October 2, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

>"The story is just devastating for Ensign."

Nah. Faux News won't play a minute of it.

Posted by: Buford on October 2, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, FOXnews is here to back up Rep. Grayson's statement that Republicans (wholly owned subsidiary of Beck, Limbaugh, and FOX) are a lie factory.

Let's see - a 16 year old boy (that's the age of consent in MA and a lot of other states), tells Jennings that he's having an affair with an older man and Jennings, for some reason, DOESN'T start screaming it from the rooftops, ruining the kid's life, etc.

Yeah, that is directly comparable to a Republican senator cheating on his wife with an aide and then paying the aide's husband (also an aide) hush money to keep it quiet. Oh yeah, and breaking various laws in the process.

Way to bring on teh stoopid, FOXNews...

Posted by: Butch on October 2, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Ensign is an arsehole, but Hampton sure has a high gross me out factor.

Ensign is having an affair with Hampton's wife. He not only takes money from Ensign but also makes demands for employment from him. Seems to me like he was trading his wife for money and status. While the men in this little sexcapade are wheeling and dealing with each other, the wife is silent and treated like a human commodity.

Posted by: Silver Owl on October 2, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Way to bring on teh stoopid, FOXNews...
Posted by: Butch

I think FOXNews is a comedy troll, Butch. Notice the "D" placed by Ensign's name.

Posted by: about time on October 2, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

For the continuing sad saga of our corporate media...

Letterman coverage vs Ensign coverage

abcnews.com
Letterman = top story
Ensign = no story

cbsnews.com
Letterman = top story
Ensign = dig deep to find link to AP story that does not describe probable illegal acts / with accompanying story about politicians whose libidos have gotten them in trouble (3R / 5D / 6 not identified 3R/3D) Total = 6 Rethugs + 8 Dumbs

MSNBC.com
Letterman = story
Ensign = link to NYT further down

CNN.com
Letterman = top story
Ensign = no story

Foxnews.com
Letterman = top story
Ensign = no story

It keeps getting harder to differentiate CNN & ABC from Fox Noise!

Posted by: AngryOldVet on October 2, 2009 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

If only there was a blue dress

Posted by: beep52 on October 2, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Silver Owl hits another home run. Yep, ick factor multiplied. It's almost like the Hamptons planned the whole thing. Hmmmmmm...

Meanwhile, there sits Ensign on the Finance Committee, spewing more lies and votes against healthcare reform. He obviously has no shame. Neither do Vitter, Sanford, and those who support them.

Posted by: Hannah on October 2, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK
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