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In Aftermath of Affair, Ensign Allegedly Sought Lobbying Contracts for Mistress's Husband

5 years ago
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A sprawling New York Times expose published Friday reveals the previously concealed aftermath of Sen. Mark Ensign's affair with an aide: Ensign (R-Nev.) may have broken Senate lobbying rules trying to get the aide's husband -- and one of his closest friends -- out of Washington. As their friendship grew strained under the pressure of Ensign's protracted relationship with Douglas Hampton's wife, Ensign called in favors with powerful donors to help Hampton get a job in Nevada, and then continued to use his Senate office as an inroad for Hampton's lobbying efforts, the Times reported.

Ensign first admitted his affair with Cynthia Hampton in June after being prodded by Republican senators who met in the infamous "C-Street house" -- a loosely Christian organization where several prominent politicians congregated -- to end the affair. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) encouraged Ensign to write the now-public letter of apology he sent to Mrs. Hampton and to pay financial restitution to the Hampton family.

But in February, before publicly revealing his affair, Ensign shopped around for positions Hampton could take outside of Washington, the newspaper reported. Ensign did not mention the affair when he contacted corporations that had donated large sums to his campaign, offering Hampton's services as a consultant with Senate experience. Several firms agreed to hire Hampton as a consultant, and Ensign's father paid the Hampton family $96,000 in "severance." Cynthia Hampton was also forced to leave her job as treasurer of two political campaigns.

Shortly after leaving Ensign's service -- and just days before Ensign would announce the affair -- Hampton signed contracts with two Nevada firms that were major Ensign underwriters. He was called a "consultant," but was almost immediately assigned to lobby for the companies' interests in Washington. Despite regulations preventing senior campaign aides from lobbying the Senate for at least a year after leaving their political position, Ensign's staff coordinated with Hampton's lobbying clients to push the clients' interests in the Senate, according to the Times. Throughout the summer, Ensign made calls to government officials at Hampton's request.

Several legal experts interviewed by the Times believe the interaction was improper if the parties were aware of Hampton's previous affiliation with Ensign's office, and that Ensign could face an inquiry into the dealings.

Senator Helped Mistress's Husband, Raising Ethics Flags [New York Times]

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