Former Nevada senator John Ensign has resurfaced in politics via a $10,000 donation he made last month to Republican U.S. House of Representatives hopeful Danny Tarkanian.
It was not the first big contribution Ensign made since he resigned from the Senate in May 2011. Last August, he donated $10,000 to GOPer Mark Amodei, who ended up winning a House special election.
But while Amodei won his race going away, Ensign's latest donation drew attention Monday because Las Vegas businessman Tarkanian is in an escalating contest with Democrat Steven Horsford, the Nevada Senate majority leader, to represent the newly created 4th Congressional District.
The June 19 donation from Ensign's Battle Born PAC to Tarkanian was reported in campaign finance updates both the former senator and the House candidate filed over the weekend with the Federal Election Commission.
Nevada Democrats flagged the contribution, portraying it as a potential embarrassment for Tarkanian. Ensign resigned from the Senate on May 3, 2011, days before the Senate ethics committee released a scathing report on his affair with the wife of his top aide, and efforts afterwards to cover it up.
"We do not discuss specifics concerning our donors but are very grateful for the support we have received from our many contributors including the donation in question," Tarkanian political director Tim Williams said in an email responding to a query about the Ensign money.
Williams did not say whether Ensign has any role in the Tarkanian campaign. Back to his pre-politics profession as a veterinarian, Ensign could not be reached Monday through either of the Las Vegas animal hospitals he serves.
Tarkanian said Ensign called him before donating the PAC money to make sure Tarkanian would have no problem with it.
"I said 'John, of course I'll take it,'" Tarkanian said Monday in a brief interview at a Las Vegas campaign event. "There was no question."
The $10,000 contribution also serves to further whittle down Ensign's once-prolific political fund. The Battle Born PAC now holds $20,772. A second political fund contained $3,926 as of April 1. Ensign ceased raising money as his political fortunes tumbled during his final months in office.