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Ethics panel may open probe of Ensign

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2009

The Senate ethics committee may open a full-scale investigation of Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign's purported flouting of ethics rules, Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said Sunday.

The committee is completing a preliminary investigation of Mr. Ensign, said Mrs. Boxer, who declined to discuss details of the inquiry two days after reports that Mr. Ensign was being lobbied by his mistress' husband, a consultant who secured his lobbying job with Mr. Ensign's help.

"Because I'm the chair of the Senate ethics committee, I can't discuss this with you, other than to say that there is a preliminary investigation going on, and we will look at all aspects of this case as we do whenever there's a case before us and try to get to the bottom of it as quickly as we can, in fairness to all," Mrs. Boxer said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

Sen. Jon Kyl, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, did not defend Mr. Ensign on Sunday, choosing instead to remain noncommittal when asked on CNN whether Mr. Ensign should resign from the Senate.

"I respect what Senator Boxer said, and I think that's probably a good practice for all of us, is to wait and see what happens," Mr. Kyl said.

Mr. Kyl followed the lead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who refused Friday to make a public declaration of support for Mr. Ensign or answer any questions about the latest reports concerning the Nevada lawmaker.

Mr. Ensign acknowledged in July an affair with campaign aide Cynthia Hampton and resigned his post in the Senate Republican leadership then. The married senator also secured a lobbying job for his mistress's husband, Doug Hampton, raised Mrs. Hampton's pay about the time of the affair, and paid the couple $96,000.

Congressional aides may not lobby their ex-bosses or anyone else in the office for one year after they leave their jobs with the lawmaker. According to a report in the New York Times on Friday, Mr. Hampton told the newspaper that both men knew of the ban and ignored it.

Before the news of the affair, Mr. Ensign had been frequently speculated about as a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate. He has said he committed no crimes and plans to run for re-election to the Senate in 2012.