Sen. John Ensign made the stunning admission that he'd had an affair with a staffer after the woman's husband asked him for a substantial sum of money.
That's the disclosure from Politico a day after the Nevada Republican's Tuesday statement that he had "violated the vows of marriage" by having the affair.
Fox News is reporting that two sources close to Sen. Ensign described the case as "extortion."
Ensign, 51, did not identify the staffer. But Politico reports that she is 46-year-old Cynthia Hampton, who served as the treasurer for Ensign's re-election campaign.
The affair reportedly took place between December 2007 and August 2008.
Hampton's husband, Douglas Hampton, served as Ensign's administrative assistant in his personal office from November 2006 to May 2008, according to Senate records.
"I deeply regret and am very sorry for my actions," Ensign said at Tuesday's briefing, reading from a prepared statement and leaving without taking questions. Ensign's wife Darlene was not at her husband's side during the short briefing.
Sources told Politico that the affair occurred while Ensign was separated from his wife, but the two have since reconciled.
Ensign is chairman of the GOP Policy Committee, the No. 4 job in the Republican Senate leadership. He served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2008, and was considered a rising star in his party.
He does not face re-election until 2012 and had taken preliminary steps to explore a run for the White House that year, making a trip three weeks ago to Iowa, an early caucus state, The Washington Post reported.
Ensign has been a member of the Promises Keepers, a male evangelical organization that promotes marital fidelity.
In 1998, as a House member, he called on President Bill Clinton to resign after revelations about his affair with a White House intern.
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