Ensign Should Face Criminal Probe, Senate Ethics Panel Says

Thursday, 12 May 2011 09:40 PM

The Senate ethics committee recommended a Justice Department investigation of former Nevada Senator John Ensign, saying evidence showed “substantial credible evidence” of wrongdoing by the ex-lawmaker.

“We have reason to believe Senator Ensign violated laws,” Senate Ethics Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, said on the Senate floor today.

Ensign, a 53-year-old Republican, resigned from the Senate May 3. He said he wanted to spare his family the emotional “wear and tear” of an ethics inquiry into his extramarital affair.

He disclosed in June 2009 that he had an affair with a campaign worker, Cindy Hampton, whose husband, Doug Hampton, was an aide on his Senate staff.

Ensign’s parents paid $96,000 to the Hamptons and two of their children. A lawyer for Ensign, Paul Coggins, said in July 2009 that the payment was made “out of concern for the well- being of longtime family friends during a difficult time.”

Boxer said the committee also forwarded its findings to the Federal Election Commission, saying there was “substantial credible evidence” that Ensign violated federal election laws.

The Justice Department dropped its investigation of Ensign, his lawyer said in December. The Senate ethics panel, though, hired an outside counsel in February to help with its probe.

‘Consideration of Expulsion’

Special counsel Carol Elder Bruce believed that “had Senator Ensign not resigned, the evidence of Senator Ensign’s wrongdoing would have been substantial enough to warrant the consideration of expulsion,” Boxer said as the committee released its report.

“The concealment conduct in this case by Senator Ensign exceeded the normal acts of discretion and created a web of deceit that entangled and compromised numerous people, including a loyal chief of staff, was an abuse of the senator’s power, and raised serious issues of violations within the committee’s jurisdiction,” the ethics committee’s report said.

Republican U.S. Representative Dean Heller was appointed by Nevada’s governor to succeed Ensign in the Senate.

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