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GOP Leader Tight-Lipped on Ensign

Updated 5:39 p.m.
By Philip Rucker
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) repeatedly refused to answer questions Friday about a New York Times report that embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) negotiated a cover-up of his extramarital affair with a campaign staffer, with his friend Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) serving as a financial intermediary.

At a Friday morning news conference, McConnell faced a barrage of questions from reporters about the Times's 4,000-word front-page investigation suggesting that Ensign may have improperly used his office to aid his mistress and her husband, who had been one of Ensign's top Washington staffers. Asked if Ensign could still be effective, McConnell said, "Sen. Ensign continues to serve," and said he does not have "any observations to make about the Ensign matter."

Spokesmen for Ensign did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

Ensign publicly admitted his affair with Cynthia Hampton earlier this year, but the Times's detailed account of the senator's efforts to mitigate the damage generated significant buzz across Washington and threatens to further damage Ensign's political future. The story shows how Ensign marshaled his political connections with corporate leaders in Nevada to help Hampton's husband, Douglas Hampton, find a lobbying or consulting job after he left Ensign's employ. The Times also reported that Coburn served as an intermediary between Ensign and the Hamptons in discussing a "large financial settlement" to help them rebuild their lives.

Ensign declined to be interviewed for the story, but in a statement to The Times said: "I am confident we fully complied with the relevant laws and rules governing current and past employees. I have worked on these Nevada issues with these Nevada companies for years, long before Doug Hampton left my office."

In accordance with standard procedures, the Senate Ethics Committee is looking into charges of misconduct regarding Ensign's affair.

"Whenever allegations of improper conduct are brought to the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee, we open a preliminary inquiry," said Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the ethics panel. Ravitz declined to comment further on the Ensign investigation.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-profit watchdog organization, said her group would send a new ethics complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee in light of the new revelations and called on Ensign to resign.

"Mr. Ensign looks like toast to me and he should resign," Sloan said in an interview. "He clearly abused his office to try and not just cover up the affair, but he used his position to keep Doug Hampton happy so that Doug Hampton wouldn't go public."

Sloan's group had already filed a complaint against Ensign with the Senate ethics panel over earlier disclosed dealings between Ensign and the Hamptons, but said she now plans to renew the call, and will ask the ethics panel to investigate Coburn's role as well.

By Web Politics Editor  |  October 2, 2009; 1:04 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Recycling Those Congressional Debates
Next: Senate Finance Committee Releases Its Final Text of Health-Care Bill


as long as they followed the law, no matter the party, there is no story...

Posted by: DwightCollins | October 2, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

History has taught me..... Whenever a Republican tells you whats good for you and or how you are to behave I know to do the exact opposite.

When it comes to the Rebulicans the reality can be summed up as:

Do not do as I do but do what I tell you to do.

Thankfully God blessed me with a brain that allows me to to think for myself.

Posted by: DIVEMAN | October 2, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Ok, this is good. We have a foreign National posing as a police captain in Hardin, Montana, a man with multiple aliases and felony convictions AND millions in civil judgments against him taking over a prison for the Feds... and someone boffs a cookie and you people freak.
Thank you for lowering, further, my estimation of the media and the general public of this "Country".

You seriously wonder why Americans no longer listen to you?

Posted by: wannabersc | October 2, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"GOP Leader Tightlipped on Ensign"...??!!

For a minute there, I thought Mitch McConnell had finally been "outed".

Posted by: wilder5121 | October 2, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Another corrupt Republican. The Republican's holier than thou attitude keeps coming back to haunt them and to remind us of why we elected President Barack Obama.

Posted by: vintel7 | October 2, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Amazing. As if by magic, the once-eager to say ANYTHING GOP leadership gets sullen, defensive and quiet when it comes to the unethical and likely unlawful shenanigans and sleazy backroom behavior by one of their own.

Posted by: tdub55 | October 2, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

D. Vitter, J. Ensign, Newt Gingring all cheated and said God forgive them, Bill Clinton cheated and the same folks say God hate infidelity.

Posted by: ddtwegby | October 2, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Towards a fellow Republican, if you have nothing nice to say, give a standing ovation.

Posted by: oakcasey | October 2, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Dem Leader Tightlipped on Rangel.

Wow, new Post feature: interchangeable headlines for hypocrites.

Posted by: Ogman | October 2, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: wannabersc | October 2, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

If Coburn participated in the bribe negotiations, why is he not being investigated?

Posted by: markscoular | October 2, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Good maybe this will shake out and there will be 2 Republican casualties with Coburn involved negotiating the hush deal for Ensign. Republicans are an embarrassment to the USA.

Posted by: vintel7 | October 2, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Sex scandals, bribes paid by the congressmans parents, lies, coverups...all from the fine christians and residents of C street - another fine display of the republican version of family values. And they wonder why the republican party is in the dumper...

"and someone boffs a cookie and you people freak.
Thank you for lowering, further, my estimation of the media and the general public of this "Country".

You seriously wonder why Americans no longer listen to you?

Posted by: wannabersc | October 2, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse


funny, I felt the same way during the clinton/lewinsky issue, but I bet you were all for that. You're right - this type of pathetically hypocritical actions are the reason no one is listening to the republican party anymore.

Posted by: NotFooledTX | October 2, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Is anyone surprised?

David Vitter attacks ACORN for counseling fake prostitutes when he's been a regular client of REAL prostitution rings for years.

Ensign continues to trumpet and preach "family values" to the rest of us when he's had an affair over multiple years with his staffer's wife, and has paid them both off multiple times.

Tom Foley was propositioning pages for years with the full knowledge of the Republican leadership and staffers, even while the party was bashing homosexuals and valiantly defending "traditional marriage".

As someone's already pointed out here, the Republicans went so far as to impeach a sitting president for sexual indiscretions after hounding him for years and accusing him of everything from corruption to murder, and all the while Newt Gingrich, who was leading the charge, was cheating on his own wife!

These people are despicable hypocrites, and I'm amazed the media doesn't call them out for their hypocrisy every time Newt's fat face appears on television!

Posted by: sambam | October 2, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I hear Charles Rangel is being MUM

Posted by: JWx2 | October 2, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

"GOP Leader Tight-Lipped on Ensign." That's in contrast to the loose lips between Coburn and Ensign as they bunked-up at "The Family" frat house on C street. Republicans love this kinda stuff. Book 'em!

Posted by: thebobbob | October 2, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

N egligent

E gotistic

O ffensive

C owardly

O doriferous

N oxious

Posted by: merf-1 | October 3, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Nothing will happen to any of these guys. When you have a large powerful body of "gentlemen" protecting each other, policing themselves, and taking advantage of every opportunity to grab money and power, they will take care of themselves and each other before they give one single thought to you or me.

The govt is in place for their personal use and benefit, not ours. We are just the saps who pay the bills.

Posted by: WindyCity | October 3, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"D. Vitter, J. Ensign, Newt Gingring all cheated and said God forgive them, Bill Clinton cheated and the same folks say God hate infidelity."
merf-1 wrote:
EXCELLENT POINT ddtwegby! What is so funny here is that here are no neo-con posts supporting Ensign yet they are all over the olympic issue spewing hate against our President because they are ANTI-AMERICAN!

"History has taught me..... Whenever a Republican tells you whats good for you and or how you are to behave I know to do the exact opposite."

merf-1 wrote:
There couldn't be anything more accurate that this!

It is such a tragedy that low life Republican politicians that call themselves Christians get away with ADULTRY, CRIME and LIES in the public eye because they have money. They have absolutely NO IDEA what FAMILY VALUES are!!!

Posted by: merf-1 | October 4, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Another example of republican hypocrisy. Why do people listen to or vote for these charlatans? Use your brains folks.

Posted by: jillcohen | October 4, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

So, the Republicans pursued Bill Clinton mercelessly for having extramarital affairs real and imagined but when a Republican has an affair it's O.K?
The Republican party has held itself up as the party of family values, the party with the high moral ground. They have no right to this claim if they don't hold their members to the same standard as they propose to hold everyone else.
Time for a real dark night of the soul for Republican leadership.

Posted by: OhMy | October 5, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

John Ensign - CORRUPT at every level. Typical self-righteous, crooked hypocrite. For McConnell to say nothing is the same as condoning Ensign's corrupt behavior.

Posted by: ilovebulldogs | October 5, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, someone in congress was caught cheating on their spouse. Yeah, it was a republican this time.

I'm pretty ticked off at the Republican Party for things like Healthcare reform but let's move on folks. Trying to tar all republicans for the errors of this guy seems a bit silly though I'm sure the Republicans would try this trick if the tables where reversed.

The Democratic party needs to be bigger than the pettiness that is a hallmark of the current Republican Party.

Posted by: fjt123 | October 5, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

This is about breaking U.S. laws regarding lobbying and using senatorial position to illegally influence policy. The infidelity would be Ensign's personal business except for the possibility that she and the rest of her family were just on staff in payment for "services rendered" to Ensign. This man belongs in jail and so does anyone else who breaks the law. Period. No spin. Investigate and get to the bottom of it...and then do your job, F.B.I. and enforce the law.

Posted by: blosmurph | October 5, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

What is so sad is that the once noble Republican Party seems to sink lower every day. May all of these hypocrites lose their upcoming elections. Can anyone imagine a president like Sarah Palin? God forbid. Or a sleaze like Newt the Toot?

Wake up Republicans. Get yourself some decent members. Avoid the far right "Conservatives". They all preach HATE!

Posted by: paulagoldman20 | October 5, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

If Allegiant Air and NVEnergy were in on these dirty deals, they should be nabbed along with Ensign and Hampton. It's easy to put this on the back-burner unless he's your state senator. This is THE big issue right now: corporate influence on our elected officials. If we solved that problem, we'd solve the health care problem and the Wall Street robbery.WHY isn't this given coverage in proportion to its importance? Is the FBI and Senate Ethics Committee bought and paid for, too? Heard Fox refused to even run it! Of course, that's no surprise.

Posted by: blosmurph | October 5, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

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