Former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) was so aggressive in helping Doug Hampton, the husband of his ex-mistress and a former top Senate aide, violate the one-year lobbying ban after Hampton resigned that he threatened to cut off constituents who refused to hire Hampton.
After Hampton learned about the affair between his wife, Cynthia, and Ensign, the senator told Hampton he could not longer work for him and started negotiating a severance payment. Ensign also set out to find him work, meeting with constituents and recommending they hire Hampton.Ensign also pressured contributors and constituents to hire Hampton as their lobbyist in an effort to placate him and prevent him from going public with the affair.
In once instance, when a prominent Nevada constituent declined to hire Hampton, Ensign instructed his then-Chief of Staff John Lopez to “jack him up to high heaven” and inform the constituent that he was “cut off” from Ensign and could no longer contact him, according to the Senate Ethics Committee’s final report.
When Lopez conveyed the message to the constituent, Sig Rogich, a Nevada consultant, red flags went off in Rogich’s mind, according to the report, because he didn’t think Hampton was qualified to work for his firm.
Despite the ban on a former staffer having formal contact with his the Senate for one year, Ensign agreed to have Lopez be the contact between Hampton and Ensign’s office in order to keep it “out of sight, out of mind” and so Lopez could “take the heat on [Ensign’s] behalf,” the committee said in its report.
Hampton subsequently contacted Ensign’s office regarding at least a dozen different client matters and initiated at least 30 improper contacts to Ensign’s office and various other offices during the one-year post-employment period. And Ensign took several specific actions to benefit Hampton’s clients.
All the while, Ensign instituted office policies making it harder for others to detect Hampton’s contacts to the office, including a shredding policy, discouraging use of official Senate e-mail accounts in favor of Gmail, and directing that all Ethics Committee inquiries go through Lopez.