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Tilting at Windmills

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April 22, 2011

SCANDAL-PLAGUED GOP SENATOR ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION.... So far in the 112th Congress, the number of Republican lawmakers to resign in disgrace tops the number of major legislative accomplishments, two to zero.

Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the subject of an ethics investigation related to his affair with the wife of a former top aide, announced Thursday evening that he was resigning, effectively ending the high-profile Senate inquiry that had already ruined his once-promising political career. [...]

"While I stand behind my firm belief that I have not violated any law, rule, or standard of conduct of the Senate," he said [in a written statement], "and I have fought to prove this publicly, I will not continue to subject my family, my constituents, or the Senate to any further rounds of investigation, depositions, drawn out proceedings, or especially public hearings. For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great."

Yes, if there's one thing John Ensign worries about, it's putting his family through a difficult ordeal.

To briefly recap for those who've forgotten -- it's always irked me that major media outlets almost completely ignored this story -- Ensign's humiliation came to public attention in June 2009, when we learned the conservative, "family-values" senator carried on a lengthy extra-marital relationship with one of his aides, who happened to be married to another one of his aides. Ensign's parents tried to pay off the mistress' family.

The scandal grew far worse when we learned that the GOP senator pushed his political and corporate allies to give lobbying contracts to his mistress's husband. When Douglas and Cynthia Hampton left Ensign's employ -- because, you know, the senator was sleeping with Cynthia -- Ensign allegedly took steps to help them make up the lost income, leaning on corporate associates to hire Douglas as a lobbyist, and ignoring ethics laws that restrict how quickly former aides can begin lobbying careers.

Federal investigators ultimately found that Ensign's wrongdoing didn't warrant prosecution, but an investigation from the Senate ethics committee, as of last month, appeared to be intensifying. By resigning in disgrace, Ensign is cutting that probe short, though committee members may yet issue a report, and refer the matter to the Justice Department if they uncover evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

As for the electoral implications, Nevada's Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, will appoint Ensign's replacement to serve through next year. It's generally assumed Sandoval will tap Rep. Dean Heller (R), who's running for the seat anyway, and would be able to run as a quasi-incumbent, while avoiding controversial votes in the House that would be used against him (Heller voted last week, for example, to eliminate Medicare). There would, under this scenario, also be a special election in Heller's Nevada district, which would quickly become a hotly contested race.

Ensign's resignation, which is effective May 3, marks the end of what was once a promising career. Indeed, before the scandal, it was widely assumed that Ensign would run for president in 2012, and was considered a credible candidate. Now, however, the far-right senator leaves in disgrace, unable to overcome his personal and professional misconduct.

Somewhere, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who easily won re-election after getting caught with prostitutes, is laughing his ass off.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Comments

Why was Ensign ever considered a possible candidate for President?
'Cause he's good looking?

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

And always remember:
Beware of Republicans talking about "Family Values."
They may be looking at the spouse in YOUR family to value!


Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 22, 2011 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

I was curious as to why so many conservative, God Fearing, Family Values politicians have closets fuller than Forest Lawn. So, I looked up "hypocrite" in my Websters.

-it said, "See Republican".

Posted by: DAY on April 22, 2011 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

Vitter of course can afford to laugh his ass off . Mr Benen being very kind , doesn't even allude to the cover up and sensitive truth . I suffer from very little of that , he he , so I can spill the beans , fifty seven varieties Heinie . Yes , yes , its twoo , the Honorable senator from "Penthouse Letters to the Editor" , has had the courage to hire professional help when his adoring wife and family just weren't enough .

Posted by: FRP on April 22, 2011 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Point to gulag: funiner, and faster. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 22, 2011 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Day,
Even a blind pig finds a truffle every once in awhile. :-)

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 22, 2011 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Vitter has lost a poker playing partner. Next on the list?

Family Values, what a crock. Everybody knows Ward Cleaver was boffing fellow Republican, Harriet Nelson. Don't even get me going on the Bob Hope/Mary Livingstone deal...

Posted by: stevio on April 22, 2011 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, lots of yucks as Ensign returns to the world of animals. However, this means Sharon Angle will be roaming the Halls of Congress as another demented US Rep by taking Heller's seat. So, who has really won?

Posted by: berttheclock on April 22, 2011 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

A member of congress resigning to shut down an ethics investigation. Better watch out. Thats how we got our governor here in Georgia.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on April 22, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

er, stevio, if only Benny hadn't spent so much time in his vault............

Posted by: berttheclock on April 22, 2011 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Good Riddance is an apt epithet for such utter disgraceful conduct! Ensign has sinned before all of us, including his God! What humility has he shown for his misdeeds?

He's decided to ride off,
into the sunset,
on his horse,
named Peckerhead! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 22, 2011 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Too soon?
(/snarklez)

Posted by: Trollop on April 22, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Good thing, Ensign is a vet. Peckerhead will, probably, pull a fetlock with him in the saddle and that Mojave Desert to the West is filled with Mojave Greens and sidewinders. Of course, those sidewinders might show Ensign professional curtesy.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 22, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

And "Dapper, make that Diaper, Dave Vitter" was re-elected. From God fearing, family values La. of all places. Makes you wonder just how many of his constituents were even aware of his vices. Don't they get Fox News back in the swamps. Maybe that's all they get and that's the problem.

Posted by: sparky on April 22, 2011 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

I have been a faithful reader of Steve Benen and his blogs going on 6 years now. And I have never, NEVER, been so irked by a sentence so wrong as the following:
Indeed, before the scandal, it was widely assumed that Ensign would run for president in 2012, and was considered a credible candidate.

WAS? WAS?! Are you kidding me? Ensign IS IS IS a credible Republican't candidate. In fact, if he declares Obama a secret radical communist muslim infiltrator, he will trump Trump as the leading Republican't prospect.

Sorry Steve, but you should know better by now.

Posted by: Gridlock on April 22, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

". . . I stand behind my firm belief that I have not violated any law, rule, or standard of conduct of the Senate . . ."

It's within the Senate's standards of conduct to boff your married employees?

Posted by: Daniel Kim on April 22, 2011 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Ensign resigning? Glad it finally happened, but *yawn*.

Steve Benen writing "laughing his ass off"!?! OMFG!!!

Posted by: chi res on April 22, 2011 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Henry Hyde's "youthful indescretion", Vitter's diaper escapades, and now the Ensign story, the family values party never disappoints those looking for the unseemly.

Posted by: Ted76 on April 22, 2011 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

may I ask a small favor? now that the NYTimes is imposing a limit on the number articles that can be viewed free per month, please give a warning to which links will take a reader to an NYTimes page?

Thanks

Posted by: magyar on April 22, 2011 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK
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