Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 4, 2009

ENSIGN NEEDS SOME GOOD LAWYERS.... Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) isn't having a good week. It's going to get worse.

To briefly recap, Ensign's sex scandal initially broke in June, and pointed to a controversy in which the conservative, "family values" senator carried on a lengthy extra-marital affair with an aide, who happened to be married to another aide. Ensign's parents tried to pay off the mistress' family.

This week, the New York Times reported that the Republican senator pushed political and corporate allies to give lobbying contracts to his mistress' husband, Douglas Hampton. Despite laws prohibiting aides from lobbying for a year after leaving the Hill, Ensign and the aggrieved husband ignored the rule, and the senator used his office to cater to the needs of those who hired Hampton.

So, what happens next? More than just political humiliation.

The Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee are expected to conduct preliminary inquiries into whether Senator John Ensign violated federal law or ethics rules as part of an effort to conceal an affair with the wife of an aide, current and former officials said Friday. [...]

The inquiries will most likely examine whether Mr. Ensign, a Nevada Republican, or Douglas Hampton, his one-time administrative assistant, broke the law after Mr. Hampton, immediately upon leaving his Congressional job last year, began to lobby Mr. Ensign's office. Mr. Hampton, as a senior aide, was subject to a one-year lobbying ban, lawyers who specialize in ethics law said. [...]

Mr. Ensign could be legally at risk if he knew that Mr. Hampton was violating the one-year ban, or if he actually directed him to do so, as Mr. Hampton has said, ethics lawyers said.

Law enforcement officials said the FBI would likely open a preliminary investigation soon, and should it escalate, the Justice Department probe would take precedence over the Senate Ethics Committee investigation, which began in June.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has called for Ensign's resignation from the Senate, but none of the Republican's colleagues have gone that far, at least not yet.

That said, Ensign isn't exactly a popular guy on the Hill, either. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) wants to pretend the Nevada Republican doesn't exist, and for now, no one in the chamber is coming to Ensign's defense.

Update: Faiz Shakir reports that Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was asked on CNN this morning whether Ensign can "serve effectively" going forward. Kyl dodged the question.

Steve Benen 9:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Comments

Accountability for wrong-doing would be a nice thing.

Republicans have been breaking laws without punishment since the Reagan administration, so -- in the end, it's not surprising that Ensign would assume pesky things like rules don't apply to him. Is it?

Posted by: zhak on October 4, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

-and this will be all over the Sunday Shows- right?

Guess I'll go turn on the TeeVee and see for myself. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 4, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

How can you possibly be paying attention to this when other issues vitally important to our nation, such as David Letterman's sexual relations with members of his staff or Rio's being awarded the Olympics instead of Chicago, are out there? Why aren't you taking all your cues from Drudge and Fox News? Don't you see that shiny thing right over there--look! look!

Posted by: seriously on October 4, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Any chance this could really blow up? Any chance that there might be 39 R senators for awhile while NV has a vacant seat? What is the senator replacement process in NV?

Posted by: bigwisc on October 4, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK
-and this will be all over the Sunday Shows- right?

Nope, not that I can see from the rundown at FDL this morning.

And I love this: Fox News AllStars: Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol, Juan Williams.

It's why NPR sucks lately.

Posted by: msmolly on October 4, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

the names "mara liasson" (ouch) and "juan williams" (ohh) give me a migraine... please refrain... thank you.

Posted by: neill on October 4, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

i'm philosophically not a 'framer', but it seems to me that ensign is a good posterboy agst the Repugnants, in some way.

Maybe not... maybe that's why i'm not a 'framer'.

Posted by: neill on October 4, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

-and this will be all over the Sunday Shows- right?

I casually listened to Meet the Press (giving it my full attention hurts my head too much) and I never heard it mentioned during the entire hour. If it was mentioned it didn't garner much discussion.

How can you possibly be paying attention to this when other issues vitally important to our nation, such as ..... Rio's being awarded the Olympics instead of Chicago, are out there?

Bingo. Meet the Press did talk extensively on just this topic and the political meaning and implications. seriously.

Another personal favorite from MTP: Round table participants were asked to respond to a SNL satire ripping into Obama's affectiveness on healthcare and afghanistan. seriously. This is considered Washington journalism. Rachel Maddow (paraphrasing) said she was and is against the wars but doesn't expect Obama to rap up 2 wars that have been going on 6 and 7 years in 10 months. Mike Murphy said "it's funny because it's true" and Obama's ineffectiveness is why republicans will make a big comeback in the midterms.

Posted by: Little Miss Attila on October 4, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

He has nothing to worry about,Holder will look into it and find nothing illegal has happened.

Posted by: par4 on October 4, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

He is thinking of using Charlie Rangel's lawyers

Posted by: John Q Public on October 4, 2009 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Far more than a Senate or even DOJ investigation, Ensign should fear an IRS audit of his own books and those of his parents. The pay-off check was written on a trust. The implications of that are truly serious, for everyone.

Posted by: John B. on October 4, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Congress takes care of its own!

Simple as that...

Posted by: dweb on October 4, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid the old Edwin Edwards (former gov. of Louisiana) maxim holds true for Republicans. The only way the party will turn on one of their own is if someone finds him in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

Posted by: dcsusie on October 4, 2009 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

Time to fetch the long knives...

Posted by: GP on October 5, 2009 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

GOP 2009: Horny For Freedom !

Posted by: mr. irony on October 5, 2009 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe Sen. Ensign can share Charlies Rangel's lawyers.

Posted by: DBL on October 5, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK
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