File under: Not Getting Away That Easily. The Senate Ethics Committee has sent a letter to the Department of Justice recommending that it pursue recently resigned Senator John Ensign for campaign finance and other violations of law, specifically that Ensign:
“Aided and abetted violations of the one-year post-employment contact restriction
Conspired to violate that restriction
Made false statements to the Federal Election Commission
Violated Campaign Finance laws
Obstructed the Committee’s preliminary inquiry”
The charges stem from a series of events that began with an affair with a staff member from December 2007 to August 2008. The letter from the committee came with a long investigative report uncovering a few new facts in what was already pretty sordid business.
Ensign began an affair with a staff member, Cynthia Hampton in about December 2007 and continued through August 2008. The report indicates Cynthia was reluctant and concerned about her job, yet the committee did not include employment law violations in its recommended charges.
Cynthia was married to another staff member, Doug Hampton, who confronted Ensign about the affair the same month it started.
Both Hamptons received substantial pay boosts during the affair, paid out of campaign funds.
Ensign hired the Hamptons’ college-age son to do “research policy consulting,” for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
In April 2008, Ensign’s parents gave the Hamptons $96,000 in “gifts.”
By May 2008, Ensign parted company with all three Hamptons.
Senator Ensign got Doug Hampton a job as a lobbyist with other former staffers and entertained lobbying from him before the one-year no-contact period had run. Earlier this year, Doug Hampton was indicted for lobbying Ensign’s office too soon after working there.
John Ensign has seemed remarkably Teflon-coated until recently. Other Congressmen’s affairs are messy front-page stuff culminating in public outcry from the district and demands for resignation. When Ensign’s affair hit the public in the summer of 2009, the spotlight was on the health care reform battle and all the Tea Party noise. Even in resignation, John Ensign had the luck to see his hour of infamy swallowed by the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Ensign, who has faced no election challenge since his affair, made his apologies and rode out the backlash, hoping it would blow over. And if it were just an affair, it might have blown over by the 2012 election.
But the Senate Ethics Committee is not concerned with passion; it is concerned with misuse of campaign money. John Ensign may have hoped to avoid legal proceedings by resigning, but the Senate Ethics Committee had other plans.
Now it’s up to the Department of Justice to pick up the ball, and the DOJ has been visibly reluctant to prosecute high level criminals. After declining to pursue Wall Street banksters, torturers, and assorted corporate criminals, John Ensign, wealthy politician fallen from grace, may finally give the DOJ the chance to answer the question, “What does it take to get arrested in this town?”