Woman Up Editor
Thanks to Las Vegas investigator Sally Denton
for this guest post:
Kansas Lottery officials and state legislators are probing whether payments totaling $96,000 from Mike and Sharon Ensign, the senator's parents, to their son's mistress, Cindy Hampton, and her family are in violation of federal campaign laws.
When the Nevada junior senator confessed to his parents in April 2008 that he was having an affair with Cindy Hampton -- the wife of his best friend and top aide -- the loving parents paid the Hamptons what was widely seen in Las Vegas as "hush money." John Ensign's Texas attorney claimed the money was a gift "consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family."
Mike Ensign is a billionaire and former CEO of Mandalay Resort Group. The senior Ensigns paid their son's girlfriend and her family in bundles of $12,000 -- the maximum allowable per individual in order to avoid a gift tax.
"Right now, we're aware there's an investigation going," Kansas Lottery Commissioner Ed Van Petten told the Wichita Eagle on Aug. 2. "If it is found that there was wrongdoing, that would have an effect on things," he said, referring to Ensign Sr.'s proposal for the $225 million Prairie Sky casino 10 miles south of Wichita. If warranted, Van Petten said, the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission would conduct a background investigation of Mike Ensign to determine if there were any breaches of ethics or morality, if not legality. But two days later Van Petten backpedaled, reporting that there were no allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Mike Ensign, and that state officials would forward his proposal to a review board this month.
While it's unclear how Kansas authorities might proceed in this matter, Nevada gaming authorities remain conspicuously silent about one of that state's leading gambling figures.