Ensign Has Close Ties To Second Firm That Employed Hampton

June 18, 2009 12:10 p.m.

The political consulting firm that reportedly employed Doug Hampton, the husband of Sen. John Ensign’s former girlfriend, has extremely close ties to the philandering Nevada senator.

Politico previously reported Hampton had gone to work for November Inc., a Nevada political consulting firm “run by several former Ensign aides.” But a closer look suggests just how tight Ensign and the firm were.Earlier today, we reported that both Hampton and his son, Brandon, landed jobs with Allegiant Air, whose CEO, Maurice Gallagher, is a major Ensign financial backer. The fact that Ensign has close links to both of the companies that have reportedly employed Doug Hampton since he left Ensign’s office last year suggests that the Nevada senator may have been made a special push to find employment for Hampton, perhaps in an effort to prevent the affair from becoming public.

As Roll Call reported in November 2006 (via Nexis), Mike Slanker, November Inc.’s founder and director, ran Ensign’s losing Senate bid in 1998, as well as his successful run in 2000. A few years later, Slanker founded November Inc., which took on Ensign as a client for the senator’s 2006 reelection campaign. Then, when Ensign became chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in late 2006, he tapped Slanker to be the committee’s political director. And Slanker’s wife, Lindsey — who also works for November Inc. — became the NRSC’s finance director.

According to November Inc.’s website, the firm’s other principal, Scott Bensing, served as Ensign’s chief of staff from the start of Ensign’s Senate tenure in 2001 until 2006. He left to become executive director of the NRSC, under Ensign’s chairmanship.

Indeed, Ensign and November Inc. are so closely associated in Nevada politics that when the senator said in October 2006 that the Bush administration had made a mistake by using the term “war on terrorism,” Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Erin Neff (via Nexis) wrote sarcastically: “Maybe we should get November Inc. to work on the branding.”

Hampton landed the reported job with November Inc. despite not appearing to have much experience in political campaigns. In 2006, the chief of staff job in Ensign’s office became vacant when Bensing moved over to run the NRSC. According to a source familiar with the situation, John Lopez, a senior Ensign aide, was named as Bensing’s formal replacement. But Lopez was distressed to learn that Ensign had decided to split the chief of staff job: Lopez would handle the political and legislative work, while Hampton was being hired to run the Washington office and its staff. (Hence the “co-chief of staff” term that has been used in recent days to describe Hampton’s role.)

According to the same source, Ensign and Hampton had become friends through their involvement with Promise Keepers, the conservative evangelical Christian men’s organization whose mission is “to ignite and unite men to become warriors who will change their world through living out the Seven Promises.” Indeed, Ensign may have seen his friendship with Hampton as part of his religious observance: Among those seven promises — in addition to “honoring Jesus Christ through worship,” and “practicing spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity,” — is “pursuing vital relationships with a few other men, understanding that he needs brothers to help him keep his promises.”

According to the same source and a second source familiar with the situation, Hampton’s hiring for a senior position in Ensign’s office caused frustration among some of the more secular members of the staff, in part because they viewed Hampton as not having the requisite experience for the job. The source described the attitude among staffers as: “Hey, this is the boss’s religious buddy. We’re not gonna bitch about him, but we don’t really like him.”

A detailed message left with November Inc. was not immediately returned.

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