- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2011

Former Sen. John Ensign of Nevada broke federal law, made false statements to the Federal Election Commission and obstructed a Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation into his conduct, the panel said Thursday in a scathing report that sent the matter to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.

The Republican former lawmaker “created a web of deceit that entangled and compromised numerous people,” the committee said, adding that it had assembled enough evidence to warrant possible expulsion had Mr. Ensign not resigned.

Mr. Ensign quit May 3, one day before he was to have testified under oath about an affair with Cynthia Hampton, the wife of aide Douglas Hampton; about Mr. Hampton’s subsequent lobbying of Mr. Ensign’s office; and concerning a payment from Mr. Ensign’s parents to the Hamptons.

The committee asked the FEC to conduct its own investigation, concluding that Mr. Ensign made false statements to the agency about the payment by his parents.

The Senate committee hired former federal prosecutor Carol Elder Bruce to complete its investigation and relied on her findings in making the referrals to the Justice Department and FEC. Besides the legal issues, the committee revealed information about the affair itself, and efforts of those close to Mr. Ensign to get him to end it.

“The special counsel is confident that the evidence that would have been presented in an adjudicatory hearing would have been substantial and sufficient to warrant the consideration of the sanction of expulsion,” the report said.

The report added that while “concealment is part of the anatomy of an affair, the concealment conduct by Sen. Ensign exceeded the normal acts of discretion.”

The Ethics Committee chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, told the Senate in a speech: “When Sen. Ensign resigned, he said, and I quote, ‘I have not violated any law, rule or standard of conduct.’ I want to go on record to say how strongly I disagree with that statement.”

The Senate cannot punish someone who is no longer serving, but the referrals ensure that investigations of Mr. Ensign will go on for some time.

Besides the payment to the Hamptons, the report focuses on Mr. Ensign’s connection to Mr. Hampton’s work as a lobbyist for two Nevada firms after he left Mr. Ensign’s staff. Federal law prohibits a senior Senate aide from lobbying the Senate for one year after ending employment. The report said Mr. Ensign conspired to help Mr. Hampton violate the restriction.

Beyond those conclusions, the committee said that Mr. Ensign deleted documents and files after he knew they were likely to be subject of legal proceedings, and committed sex discrimination against Mrs. Hampton while she was an employee of his campaign committee.

Mr. Ensign’s attorneys, Robert Walker and Abbe Lowell, said in a statement that the former senator is “confused and disappointed that the committee would consider his case and issue its report without waiting for and considering our submission, which it received yesterday.”

The statement also said that since “the senator resigned just last week and was not running for re-election, there does not seem to be any real reason for a rush to create a report that did not fully consider our submission and which did not allow us to follow up on any remaining issues.”

The committee didn’t hold back in revealing some aspects of Mr. Ensigns’ affair. The Hamptons and the Ensigns had been longtime friends before the relationship began.

“Sen. Ensign told Ms. Hampton that he wanted to marry her while they attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington,” the report revealed.

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