Ethics Report: Ensign Preferred Company of ‘Alpha Males,’ Engaged In Gender Discrimination

Former Sen. John Ensign’s (R-NV) Chief of Staff John Lopez told the Senate Ethics Committee that he was surprised Ensign had hired him because Ensign preferred the company of “alpha males” as his confidantes and friends, according the ethics panel’s final report.

Lopez became chief of staff when the previous aide in that position, Scott Bensing, went to work as the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, when Ensign became chairman in 2006. Lopez had worked for Ensign for 15 years in various legislative and campaign positions, but the two had only a professional relationship not a close, personal friendship. Lopez told the committee his ties to the Ensign were “an inch deep and a mile wide.”Even with his strong congressional office and legislative experience, Lopez said he wasn’t surprised that Ensign had reservations about elevating him into the top office post because the senator preferred the company of “alpha males.” Ensign eventually tapped him for the post but also hired Douglas Hampton, the husband of his then-soon-to-be mistress, as his administrative assistant, who could handle “certain tasks” he didn’t believe Lopez was particularly well suited for, according to the report.

Hampton was a “management guru,” Ensign said at the time, and had been trained in Japanese corporate management skills.

But after Douglas Hampton discovered the affair between Ensign and his wife, Cynthia, Ensign told Douglas Hampton he could no longer work for him. According to the report, Ensign was worried that Douglas Hampton would figure out some of the dummy items on his schedule, times when he was meeting with Cynthia Hampton that were described as another event.

The ethics panel’s special prosecutor found that Ensign’s firing of Douglas Hampton, as well as the affair with his wife while she served as a campaign fundraiser for him, constituted discrimination and sexual harassment.

“There is substantial credible evidence that the Senator determined that the affair made it
impossible for either of the Hamptons to continue working for him,” the report states.

The Senate chief counsel for employment makes available draft language for office anti-fraternization policies, each of which precludes a romantic relationship from continuing between a supervisor and his or her subordinate, the report notes.

“The specific language of the policy in Senator Ensign’s office changed over time,
but always precluded a supervisor and a subordinate from carrying on a romantic relationship, much less an affair,” wrote the special prosecutor. “Senator Ensign’s continuation of the affair with Ms. Hampton violated this principle and led to the more vulnerable party losing her job, the very consequence that the policy seeks to prevent.”