Ensign: Assistance to Mistress's Husband Was Legal, Ethical
By Dan Eggen
Embattled Nevada Sen. John Ensign (R) said Tuesday that he broke no law in helping the husband of his former mistress get a lobbying job, saying he and his aides "were very careful in everything that we did."
"We absolutely did nothing except comply exactly with what the ethics laws and the ethics rules of the Senate state," Ensign told a CNN crew that trailed him as he walked from his office to the U.S. Capitol.
Ensign did not directly respond to a question about whether he is planning to resign. "I am focused on doing my work," he said. "And I'm going to continue to focus on doing my work."
The remarks come in the wake of a lengthy New York Times report last week detailing how Ensign helped a former aide, Doug Hampton, get a lobbying job and then met with some of Hampton's clients. Hampton is barred under congressional ethics rules from lobbying his old boss for a year after leaving his job; federal law also requires lobbyists to register their activities, which Hampton did not do.
Ensign admitted to the affair earlier this year and disclosed payments totaling $96,000 to the Hampton family under the names of his parents. But the Times report revived calls for Ensign's resignation and has breathed new life into possible investigations of his activities.
Officials have said the Senate ethics committee is already investigating Ensign's dealings with Hampton. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, also sent a letter to the FBI Tuesday asking for a criminal investigation of Ensign for possibly violating lobbying and public corruption laws.
"To say that Sen. Ensign has shown himself unfit for office could be the understatement of the year," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director.
The group has also asked the Senate ethics committee to investigate the role played by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who served as an intermediary between Ensign and the Hamptons in discussing "a large financial settlement."
October 6, 2009; 3:19 PM ET
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