Just hours after the Senate Ethics Committee appointed a special counsel to lead the investigation into his affair with a former staffer, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said Tuesday his reelection campaign was ramping up its fundraising efforts.
Ensign downplayed the panel's appointment and said his campaign was moving "full speed ahead," Politico
reported. The senator said he'd be hosting a fundraiser Wednesday in Washington D.C.
The announcement that veteran criminal defense lawyer Carol Elder Bruce would head up the Ensign probe came as a surprise to many on Capitol Hill. It's the first time in two decades that the ethics panel has appointed a special counsel to investigate a senator, according to The Washington Post
Ensign is being investigated over his admitted affair with Cynthia Hampton, his former campaign treasurer. Her husband, Doug Hampton, was once a member of Ensign's congressional staff.
The ethics panel will look into whether Ensign broke federal law and congressional rules by helping Doug Hampton find lobbying work after he left the senator's office in April 2008. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Ensign, 52, caught a big break late last year
when federal prosecutors announced he would not face charges related to payments he made following the extramarital affair.
The Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint against Ensign over a $96,000 payment his parents made to his former mistress and her family. The FEC disagreed with allegations that the money given to Cynthia Hampton amounted to an illegal political donation.
The appointment of a special prosecutor suggests the probe could last well into the 2012 election season.
Politico said "there's clear concern within Republican circles that his candidacy" -- coinciding with an ethics investigation -- "could jeopardize GOP chances of holding that Nevada seat" next year.