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Muted Reaction to Ensign Revelations

By Dan Eggen
The revelation Thursday that Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) enlisted his wealthy parents to pay $96,000 to his mistress and her family has so far produced a few calls for Ensign's resignation from conservative activists back home in Nevada but little reaction among lawmakers of either party.

The closest thing to criticism today of Ensign came from intraparty rival John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who took over for the Nevadan as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"It's not good," Cornyn said of the affair, but he added that he had not heard any talk of Ensign stepping down. Asked by reporters whether Ensign could recover politically from the revelations, he responded: "I just don't know the answer to that."

Ensign first admitted several weeks ago to an eight-month affair with a former campaign aide, but the admission was quickly overshadowed by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's own sex scandal, the death of pop star Michael Jackson and the abrupt resignation of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The respite ended earlier this week, however, when the former mistress's husband -- former Ensign chief of staff Doug Hampton -- went public with a raft of new allegations, including a purported $25,000 severance payment to his wife.

A handwritten letter also surfaced from Ensign to Cynthia L. Hampton in February 2008: "What I did with you was wrong," he wrote. "I used you for my own pleasure." The affair continued until August, however.

The new allegations prompted a statement from Ensign's attorney on Thursday outlining eight $12,000 payments to the Hampton family in April 2008 from Ensign's mother and father, a millionaire casino magnate. The gifts were given "out of concern for the well-being of longtime family friends during a difficult time," the lawyer said.

While sitting politicians are mostly holding fire, some conservative activists are unhappy with continuing affair-related revelations about Ensign, a proclaimed religious conservative. Nevada blogger Chuck Muth told the Las Vegas Sun that Ensign should resign and questioned whether he would have enough support to mount a 2012 reelection bid. "If he gets through the summer, he can weather it out," Muth said. "There just can't be any more shoes."

By Post Editor  |  July 10, 2009; 7:16 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules  
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The stunned silence may be the sign that the republicans are beginning to get an inkling of what they have built themselves into.

Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican could buy us years of silence.

Posted by: ceflynline | July 10, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Senator Ensign's morals are not consistent with the American code of ethics to be a member of Congress,

Those that speak for him wear the same cloth.

Michael LittleBig
Cleveland Ohio

Posted by: MichaelLittleBig | July 13, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

This again proves that when it comes to political parties and their partisans, what matters most isn't if an elected official is competent, moral, hypocritical or even a crook.

What matters is that that person supports the same positions on certain issues, such as "moral" ones. It doesn't even matter if that official doesn't practice what he preaches, so long as he votes the right way. Both parties are equally despicable in this regard.

Posted by: bpai_99 | July 13, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks.Ensign called for Craig to resign;He should Go & Do likewise!If you can't walk the walk, you shouldn't talk the talk!

Posted by: asclepious2 | July 13, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

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