- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sen. John Ensign, one day after publicly admitting to an extramarital affair, said Wednesday that he was stepping down from his Senate leadership post but would remain in the chamber.

The Nevada senator relayed his decision to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who said he accepted Mr. Ensign’s resignation.

Mr. Ensign was chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, considered the fourth-ranking spot in the Senate Republican chain of command.

“He’s accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized to his family and constituents,” Mr. McConnell said.

Mr. Ensign, who reportedly was in Nevada on Wednesday, couldn’t be reached for comment. Spokesmen for the senator also didn’t respond to phone or e-mail requests for comment.

The policy committee is essentially a legislative think tank intended to coordinate and enhance Republican policymaking. As chairman, Mr. Ensign also was responsible for organizing for his fellow Senate Republicans their weekly Tuesday lunch meetings, during which major legislative issues and roll-call votes are discussed.

Mr. Ensign, 51, announced at a news conference Tuesday in Nevada that he had an affair with a woman who was a member of his campaign staff. A spokesman said the affair took place from December 2007 to August 2008 and that the staffer was married to an employee in Mr. Ensign’s Senate office.

The senator told reporters that it was “the worst thing I have ever done in my life.”

“If there was ever anything in my life that I could take back, this would be it,” said Mr. Ensign, who declined to take questions from reporters.

Las Vegas lawyer Daniel J. Albregts on Wednesday issued a statement that clients Cindy and Doug Hampton confirmed they are the couple whom Mr. Ensign alluded to at Tuesday’s news conference, according to the Associated Press.

“It is unfortunate the senator chose to air this very personal matter, especially after the Hamptons did everything possible to keep this matter private,” the lawyer said. “It is equally unfortunate that he did so without concern for the effect such an announcement would have on the Hampton family.”

He added that “in time, the Hamptons will be ready and willing to tell their side of the story.”

Mrs. Hampton, of Las Vegas, had worked on several of Mr. Ensign’s election committees, while her husband was a top assistant in the senator’s office in Washington. Both left Mr. Ensign’s employment in the spring of 2008.

The Las Vegas Sun reported Wednesday that Mrs. Hampton was paid almost $1,400 per month for most of 2007 as treasurer of Mr. Ensign’s Battle Born Political Action Committee.

Her salary increased slightly in January 2008, but then doubled to nearly $2,800 per month in February 2008 and stayed at that higher rate through March and April, when she left the job, the newspaper said.

Edie Cartwright, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, said the agency has no investigation regarding the affair.

The senator has risen quickly through the Senate leadership since taking office in 2001 and serves on several powerful committees, including finance, budget and homeland security. His current six-year term expires in January 2013.

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