Flouting Lobbying Ban, Ensign Helped Hampton Clients: Report

October 1, 2009 2:27 pm

We knew there was another shoe waiting to drop in the story of Nevada GOP senator John Ensign’s affair with a top aide’s wife.

And now it’s dropped. A lengthy investigation by the New York Times reveals that Ensign was far more involved than previously known in trying to get a job for Doug Hampton — his mistress’s husband — after the affair had been discovered. And that Ensign then used his influence in government to try to do favors for Doug Hampton’s new employers — apparently in violation of lobbying rules.As Hampton summed up the basic problem to the Times: “The only way the clients could get what John was essentially promising them — which was access — was if I still had a way to work with his office,” Mr. Hampton said. “And John knew that.”

Among the revelations:

• After Hampton left Ensign’s office, Ensign put his chief of staff, John Lopez, in charge of dealing with Hampton, even though Lopez had raised concerns that Hampton’s contact with the office could violate a ban on lobbying a former boss’s office. Hampton said, according to the Times, that both he and Ensign were aware of the rule, “but chose to ignore it.”

• Ensign then took at least two actions on behalf of Allegiant Air, the Nevada-based airline that he had helped get Hampton a lobbying contract with. When Allegiant was being probed for allegedly overcharging for its online tickets, Ensign — responding to a request from Hampton — called the transportation secretary to argue on Allegiant’s behalf. Later, Ensign arranged for Hampton and Allegiant to meet the new transportation secretary, Ray Lahood, in order to resolve a dispute with a foreign competitor.

• Ensign also acted on behalf of another Hampton client, NV Energy, after Hampton had contacted his office about the company. The senator urged Interior Department officials to complete an environmental review for a coal-burning plant that NV Energy was hoping to build.

• In order to convince his former aide Mike Slanker to give Hampton a job, Ensign falsely told Slanker that Hampton wanted to return from Washington DC to Las Vegas because Cindy Hampton was ill. Ensign said nothing about the affair. As a result, Slanker re-started his political consutling firm, November Inc., in order to give Hampton, as the Times put it, a “well-known base in Nevada political circles to start a small government affairs practice.”

• Ensign greed to help Hampton line up three or four clients for that practice, in order to match the $144,000 a year salary Hampton had earned while working for Ensign.

• According to Hampton, at that famous February 2008 C Street confrontation, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told Ensign that if he didn’t end the affair, Coburn would “go to Mitch” — meaning GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

• Just four months ago, as Doug Hampton was stepping up his demands, Ensign allowed his friend Coburn to serve as an intermediary with Doug and Cynthia Hampton in discussing a plan for Ensign to pay the Hamptons a multi-million dollar settlement.

• Ensign told Hampton that he first realized he wanted to sleep with Hampton’s wife Cindy
after taking her to a black-tie Christmas party at the White House in 2006.

You should really read the whole thing…

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