Hollywood couldn’t top this bad romance.
Yesterday the Senate Ethics Committee released a complete 68 page report on the John Ensign affair along with referrals for prosecution. You’ll recall that Ensign conveniently resigned on May 3rd one day prior to a hearing which, according to Senator Barbara Boxer, would have resulted in his being expelled from the Senate; the harshest judgement the committee can levy.
The sordid details of this cascading avalanche of bad decisions are as follows: John Ensign, having won his 2006 Senate race, hires friend Doug Hampton and his wife Cindy to work for him. Sometime in late 2007 Ensign and Cindy Hampton begin an affair facillitated by the fact that the Hamptons were living with the Ensigns after a burglary at the Hampton home; a home which they couldn’t afford and Ensign helped them get into. Doug Hampton discovers the affair two days before Christmas and following a lot of drama at the airport, Ensign and the Hamptons reconcile. Ensign tearfully apologizes and says it’s over. Then the two families spend perhaps the most awkward Christmas ever together.
It could’ve ended there but Ensign continues to pursue Cindy Hampton in early 2008 who reluctantly acquiesces since her family’s entire finances, including the tuition to private school for her children that Ensign is paying for, are tied to the Senator’s office. Ensign tells Hampton he wants to marry her, continues to arrange liaisons with her, and makes hundreds of calls to her under the alias of ‘Aunt Judy’ on his cell phone which Doug Hampton discovers on a trip with Ensign to Iraq.
Meanwhile, colleagues in Washington are learning about the affair and tell Ensign it must stop. Ensign agrees. But two days later Doug Hampton sees his wife’s and Ensign’s cars at a motel in Nevada. He informs Ensign’s colleagues who immediately call his cell phone and tell him “put your pants on and go home”. Ensign fires Doug Hampton the following day and Ensign’s wife Darlene fires Cindy Hampton soon afterwards.
The cover-up begins. Senator Ensign (astoundingly making preparations for a potential Presidential run for 2012) arranges for Doug Hampton to get a lobbying job. He arranges to have his parents to give the now unemployed Hamptons $96,000. Ensign would insist this was a gift but Doug Hampton calls it severance (which is illegal). Ensign initiates a shredding policy at his office and begins using a G-mail account instead of his public office e-mail account. Eventually, Doug Hampton leaks the affair to Fox News after his attorney fails to get more money from Ensign.
By this time, Ensign is already being investigated for ethics violations along with the Hamptons, Ensign’s parents, Ensign’s Chief of Staff (who was granted immunity for his testimony), and most likely Senator Tom Coburn who may face scrutiny for his part in the cover-up. The Hamptons have divorced and Cindy Hampton has filed for bankruptcy and wants to move to California to start life over.
But this train wreck is probably far from over. Doug Hampton is already under indictment and Ensign may well be on his way, too, because the whole thing has been referred to the Department of Justice.
Could we see former Senator John Ensign in jumpsuit orange picking up trash along Nevada highways soon?
- “Tom Coburn Helped Cover Up John Ensign Affair: Senate Ethics Report” and related posts (huffingtonpost.com)
- Coburn gets new scrutiny in Ensign scandal – Politico (news.google.com)
- Senate Ethics Panel Says Justice Department Should Probe Ensign (businessweek.com)
- Ensign Case Referred to Justice Dept. (online.wsj.com)
- Sex Lives of Republicans, II: John Ensign in Love and Heat (psychologytoday.com)
- Senate committee refers Ensign case to Justice Department (cnn.com)
- How did John Ensign last so long? (politico.com)