- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2009

ENSIGN ETHICS

A watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Senate ethics committee asking lawmakers to investigate the circumstances surrounding an affair that Republican Sen. John Ensign had with a campaign aide, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The Nevada lawmaker acknowledged last week that he was involved in a sexual relationship from December 2007 through August 2008. The aide was identified by her attorney as Cindy Hampton, who had worked for two Ensign political groups.

Mr. Ensign returned to Washington on Monday after spending the previous six days in Nevada. He entered his Senate office in mid-afternoon, declining to take questions from reporters, according to the AP.

Officials at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said they would ask lawmakers to investigate the source and amount of any severance payments to Mrs. Hampton. They also said they would ask the committee to investigate whether her departure was voluntary from positions with his Battle Born Political Action Committee and Ensign for Senate.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan cited a letter from Mrs. Hampton’s husband, Doug Hampton, as one reason the case needed investigation. Mr. Hampton, a former top aide in Mr. Ensign’s Senate office, said the senator’s conduct “led to our dismissal in April of 2008.”

Such a dismissal would have violated a Senate rule that bars employment discrimination, Ms. Sloan said.

It will likely be Wednesday before her group files its complaint with the ethics committee, Ms. Sloan said. She said the complaint is necessary because senators have shown little enthusiasm in the past for conducting sex-related investigations involving colleagues.

STAYING PUT

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told CNN Monday that he will not enter next year’s race for California governor, ending months of speculation about the immediate future of one of the nation’s most recognized Hispanic politicians.

The Democratic mayor said months ago that he would consider jumping into the 2010 contest to replace Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But he concluded he couldn’t step away from his job with a budget crisis at City Hall and his hometown struggling with double-digit unemployment.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said during an interview on CNN with Wolf Blitzer. “I feel compelled to complete what I started.”

When he took office in 2005, Mr. Villaraigosa was seen as a leading figure in a new wave of Hispanic politicians. But his first term was marked by a series of setbacks, including the failure of his signature school-reform plan and the breakup of his marriage during his affair with a television newscaster.

He begins his second term July 1, having been re-elected with lukewarm support from voters.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has been named as a potential gubernatorial candidate for the Democrats, while San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced in April that he was throwing his hat in the ring.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell, California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman are said to be considering a run on the Republican side.

PERSIAN PERPLEXITY

“President Barack Obama did not ‘lose’ Iran,” writes Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal. “This is not a Jimmy Carter moment. But the foreign-policy education of America’s 44th president has just begun. Hitherto, he had been cavalier about other lands, he had trusted in his own biography as a bridge to distant peoples, he had believed he could talk rogues and ideologues out of deeply held beliefs. … Mr. Obama offered it an olive branch and waited for it to ‘unclench’ its fist.

“It was an odd, deeply conflicted message from Mr. Obama. He was at once a herald of change yet a practitioner of realpolitik. He would entice the crowds, yet assure the autocrats that the ‘diplomacy of freedom’ that unsettled them during the presidency of George W. Bush is dead and buried. …

“But in truth Iran had never wanted an opening to the U.S. For the length of three decades, the custodians of the theocracy have had precisely the level of enmity toward the U.S. they have wanted - just enough to be an ideological glue for the regime but not enough to be a threat to their power. Iran’s rulers have made their way in the world with relative ease. No White Army gathered to restore the dominion of the Pahlavis. The Cold War and oil bailed them out. So did the false hope that the revolution would mellow and make its peace with the world. …

“Iran’s ordeal and its ways shattered the Carter presidency. President Obama’s Persian tutorial has just begun.”

MONGOLIAN KUDOS

In response to last week’s presidential inauguration following the latest democratic elections in Mongolia, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, issued the following statement announcing the Senate’s passage of a resolution recognizing Mongolia’s democratic accomplishments and its growing partnership with the United States:

“Mongolia’s free and fair election process and peaceful transition of power stand as the latest demonstrations of the country’s commitment to democratic reform,” the senators said. “As Mongolia’s friend and partner, the United States is invested in Mongolia’s future and looks forward to continued political, economic, and cultural cooperation.”

Committee members Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, also signed the statement.

EXTENDED STAY

New York’s Senate failed to end its two-week power standoff on Monday’s final day of the regular session, prompting Gov. David A. Paterson to order senators into days of special sessions.

The action sets up a Tuesday showdown in which the governor will compel feuding senators into session under an agenda he sets, but which may have no single leader to open the proceedings, according to the Associated Press.

“The people’s business has been delayed long enough,” Mr. Paterson told reporters on the final day of the 2009 regular session.

The governor spoke as the Republican-dominated coalition again attempted to hold a session while the Democratic conference boycotted. Without the Democrats, there weren’t enough members present to have a quorum, which is necessary before the Senate can vote on bills or resolutions.

Mr. Paterson ordered senators to stay in Albany on Tuesday and likely for several more days to take action required by the end of the month.

Pending measures include authorizing local governments to raise municipal taxes needed for budgets due as early as July 1, extending mayoral control of New York City schools and continuing to provide lower-cost energy to companies in exchange for job growth.

The Democratic governor also says he will require additional special sessions to force the Senate to consider other bills, including the legalization of same-sex marriage.

• Sean Lengell can be reached at [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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