Late last week, the New York Times documented new ethics problems for Sen. John Ensign (R-NV). In an effort to cover-up an affair he was having with the wife of one of his top staffers, Ensign asked his corporate allies to give that aide — Doug Hampton — a lobbying job. Despite rules that prohibit congressional staffers from lobbying for one year after leaving their government position, Ensign nevertheless helped Hampton line up lobbying clients and then “repeatedly intervened on the companies’ behalf with federal agencies.”
Ensign “could be legally at risk” if he knew that Hampton was violating the one-year ban, or if he aided and abetted him in doing so. Law enforcement officials told the Times that the F.B.I. is “likely to open a preliminary investigation” into the new accusations to determine whether a full investigation is warranted. The FBI inquiry would take precedence over a Senate ethics inquiry.
This morning on CNN’s State of the Union, Senate ethics chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced “there’s a preliminary investigation going on, and we will look at all aspects of this case.” When asked whether Ensign can continue to “serve effectively,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) — a member of the Senate Republican leadership — refused to lend his support to Ensign. We should simply “wait and see what happens,” Kyl said. Watch it:
Ensign is finding no support among his long-time friends and colleagues on Capitol Hill. On Friday, Republican leader Mitch McConnell dodged the issue. “I really don’t have any observations to make about the Ensign matter,’’ McConnell told reporters.