- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nevada Sen. John Ensign’s former administrative assistant, whose wife had an affair with the senator, was indicted Thursday, accused of lobbying Mr. Ensign and his staff in violation of federal conflict-of-interest laws.

Douglas Hampton is charged in connection with lobbying he did on behalf of a Las Vegas airline company and an energy company.

Federal law prohibits a senior Senate aide from lobbying the Senate for one year after terminating employment.

The senator’s affair with Cynthia Hampton has sidetracked the political career of Mr. Ensign, who announced this month that he would not seek a third term.

Mr. Ensign has said the affair with Mrs. Hampton began during a rocky time in his marriage in December 2007 and continued until August 2008. The Hamptons left their jobs with Mr. Ensign in May 2008.

When Mr. Hampton found out about the affair, Mr. Ensign helped line up jobs for him with campaign donors.

According to the indictment, Mr. Hampton lobbied on behalf of a low-cost airline carrier in Las Vegas, Allegiant Air, and for the largest electricity provider in Nevada, NV Energy.

Mr. Hampton’s attorney, Dan Albregts, declined to comment about the latest development in the long-running probe surrounding Mr. Ensign and the Hamptons.

A call to Mr. Ensign’s office was not immediately returned.

The indictment marks the second reversal of fortune for those involved in the Justice Department inquiry, which followed revelations of Mr. Ensign’s affair with Mrs. Hampton.

Mr. Ensign himself came under investigation on whether he conspired with Mr. Hampton to violate the lobbying restriction. Last December, the Justice Department disclosed to the senator that it no longer viewed him as a target in the probe.

On behalf of Allegiant Air, the indictment says, Mr. Hampton sought the assistance of Mr. Ensign and a legislative aide to the senator to convince the U.S. Transportation Department to reconsider its position on a fuel-surcharge pricing issue. Mr. Hampton is accused of seeking the assistance of Mr. Ensign and his staff to help schedule a March 2009 meeting involving the secretary of transportation and executives from the airline company.

On behalf of NV Energy, the indictment states, Mr. Hampton sought the assistance of Mr. Ensign and his chief of staff to expedite the release of a U.S. Interior Department environmental-impact statement about one of the company’s coal-fired power plants.

The lobbying effort was designed to allow the energy company to move forward on its delayed proposal to build the plant.

If convicted, Mr. Hampton, 48, would face up to five years in prison on each of the seven counts of violating federal conflict-of-interest laws. Mr. Hampton also would face a maximum fine of $250,000 per count. He faces a March 31 court appearance in federal court in Washington.

The lobbying restrictions are contained in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. The law is aimed at slowing the revolving door between congressional employment and lobbying activities after the departure of aides from government.

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