They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Tangled Web Of Jobs, Money, Illicit Sex Links Ensign, Former Staffers

But it's Ensign's ties to Cynthia's husband Doug that may be more interesting. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Ensign and Hampton are old friends. When the senator gave Hampton a top staff position in 2006, "it was as if Ensign had put his brother on staff," a former Ensign staffer told the paper. "[Hampton] had a lot of sway with the senator." Hampton's formal title was "administrative assistant," the former staffer described the job as a sort of "co-chief of staff." Hampton's financial disclosure form shows that he made around $101,000 in 2008 and $144,000 in 2007.

Then, after both Hamptons abruptly stopped working for Ensign in May 2008, reports the Review-Journal, Doug Hampton went to work for Allegiant Air, a Las Vegas-based travel company, and for November Inc., the political consulting firm that runs Ensign's campaigns and employs several former Ensign staffers. According to FEC records examined by TPMmuckraker, Allegiant Air's CEO, Maurice Gallagher, contributed over $46,000 to the Ensign-affiliated Senate Majority Committee between 2005 and 2007, as well as smaller amounts to Ensign's Senate campaign and the Battle Born PAC. And Gallagher's wife Marcia gave another $20,000 to Senate Majority Committee during the same period, as well as $6200 to the Ensign campaign. Ensign touted Allegiant in an interview earlier this year.

Even the Hamptons' son has gotten into the act. Politico reports that 19-year old Brandon was paid by the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2008 -- when Ensign was NRSC chairman -- to do "research policy consulting." He made a total of $5,400, up through August 2008.

Meanwhile, it looks like the money from these various jobs would have come in handy for the Hamptons. Politico adds that in 2006, the couple took out a $1.2 million mortgage on their Las Vegas home, with an interest rate of 8 percent. The house is now valued at around $862,000, according to the website Zillow.com, which analyzes real estate.

There are indications that Ensign decided to announce the affair because Doug Hampton was trying to blackmail him for a "substantial" amount of money. But whether or not that's true, there's abundant evidence that before, during, and after the affair, Ensign was of enormous help to the Hamptons.

So did he take action on their behalf in order to keep the affair secret? That could be where this story goes next...

Progress overnight on deployment of new commenting system. We hope to move into a short beta-testing phase shortly.