Former Sen. John Ensign of Nevada had an affair with a staff member whose husband had been a close friend of the senator, people who follow Washington scandals will recall. All that took place some years back, but Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington contends there’s more to learn.
The watchdog group has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington accusing the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, the FBI and the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys of improperly withholding records from the inquiry, Courthouse News reported.
The case arose from the former Republican lawmaker’s affair with Cynthia Hampton, whose husband, Doug Hampton, had been Ensign’s chief of staff and friend. The affair began in late 2007 and continued until mid-2008 and came to light in June 2009. It was also disclosed that the senator tried to smooth things over by paying the Hamptons sizable sums of money, with the help of the senator’s parents, and tried to help Doug Hampton find work, including a post in which he lobbied the senator’s office.
His political career in tatters, Ensign resigned his Senate seat in 2011. Had he not, he could have faced expulsion, which would have been a rare occurrence even in a legislative body that has had its share of womanizers, hard drinkers, bigots and eccentrics over the decades.
In its complaint, CREW recalls that the Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to refer the findings of a special counsel in the Ensign inquiry to the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission. The ethics panel chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), cited “egregious” evidence against Ensign, CREW recalls.
But the DOJ and FEC did not proceed against Ensign, and CREW wants to see the agencies’ records to find out why. As for Doug Hampton, he ran afoul of lobbying laws, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was placed on a year’s probation. To a non-lawyer in, say, Peoria or Dayton, that might seem unfair and illogical. But different standards sometimes apply in Washington.