Ensign aide admits affair; Nevada senator quits leadership position


WASHINGTON — A former aide to Sen. John Ensign confirmed through her attorney that she had an extramarital affair with Nevada’s junior senator, whose once thriving political career took a further tumble today when he quit his Senate Republican leadership position.

A day earlier, Ensign admitted during a brief news conference that he had cheated on his wife with the aide, whom he did not name.

Daniel Albregts, a Las Vegas attorney, issued a statement today confirming that Cindy and Doug Hampton “are the individuals referenced by Senator Ensign during his press conference.”

Cindy Hampton, 46, worked for Ensign’s two political committees in 2007 and 2008. At the same time, her husband, Doug, 47, was a top aide on Ensign’s personal staff.

“It is unfortunate the senator chose to air this very personal matter, especially after the Hamptons did everything possible to keep this matter private,” Albregts said. “It is equally unfortunate that he did so without concern for the effect such an announcement would have on the Hampton family.”

Ensign’s camp sought to dispute that version tonight.

According to Ensign’s aides, Doug Hampton had approached a television news network about the affair, prompting Ensign to go public. That could not be confirmed.

A Washington source said Doug Hampton approached Ensign earlier requesting money, with the implication that it would ensure the couple’s continued silence as the senator sought to continue his climb in the ranks of the Republican Party.

Ensign stepped down as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, the No. 4 slot in the GOP leadership, where he was seen as a new voice for Republicans trying to rebuild the party that had been swamped by Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

An Ensign speech this month in Iowa, where he spoke to a conservative group, had sparked speculation he was positioning himself for higher office, even the presidency.

In announcing that he had an affair, Ensign indicated he was not resigning his Senate seat and was committed to serving Nevada constituents.

But his resignation from the leadership committee position raised questions about whether his days as a GOP up-and-comer have ended.

Ensign has been unavailable since Tuesday, when he declined to take questions. Aides indicated he would not be returning to the Senate this week.

Albregts said in his statement that the Hamptons, in time, “will be ready and willing to tell their side of the story.”

He would not take questions Wednesday on any topic.

Doug Hampton said about as much around 5:30 p.m. when he pulled into the garage of his Summerlin home.

He did not respond to initial comments as the door closed behind his vehicle, but answered the front door shortly afterward.

“We’re not willing to make a statement at this time,” Hampton said, passing forward a card with his lawyer’s name and phone number. “We will be later.”

Hampton’s tone was polite and civil, his attire business casual.

He did not address questions regarding his or his wife’s relationships with Ensign.

“No comment,” he said.

Both Hamptons were on the Ensign payroll after Doug Hampton took a top staff position in the senator’s Washington office in 2006.

Cindy Hampton received a promotion and pay raises around the time of her relationship with Ensign, according to records at the Federal Election Commission.

As treasurer of Ensign’s primary campaign fund, Cindy Hampton was paid $500 monthly during 2007. The payments doubled to $1,000 monthly beginning in January 2008.

That month, Cindy Hampton was promoted to treasurer of another Ensign political vehicle, the Battle Born Political Action Committee. Her monthly salary there doubled as well, from $1,385 to $2,770.

According to a timeline provided by Ensign’s office this week, the relationship lasted from December 2007 to August 2008.

The payments to Cindy Hampton came from Ensign’s fundraising, and not taxpayers.

Senate records show Doug Hampton received a monthly taxpayer-funded salary of roughly $13,500 as an administrative assistant in Ensign’s Senate office beginning in November 2006. He received a payment of $19,679 for his final month, and was off the payroll on May 1, 2008.

Cindy Hampton also left Ensign’s employ that month, according to records.

Additionally, Ensign hired Brandon Hampton, the Hamptons’ 19-year-old son, to work from March to August 2008 at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm that the Nevadan headed at the time.

Brandon Hampton was paid $5,400 from March 13 to August 15, for “research policy consulting,” according to FEC records.

Clark County records show he lives with his parents in their Summerlin home.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in accepting Ensign’s resignation from the Republican Policy Committee, said: “He’s accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized to his family and constituents.”

A number of Republican senators tiptoed around Ensign’s affair on Wednesday, declining to comment or saying they were not ready to weigh in.

But it was becoming clear that the Nevadan’s hold on his leadership post was becoming tenuous.

Before the disclosure that Ensign was stepping aside, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he did not think that the Nevadan should be removed.

But asked whether Ensign still could be an effective spokesman for the party, Graham said, “No.”

“I just think he needs to take care of his family situation and get back to work,” Graham said.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said Ensign could use forgiveness.

“If you look at it in the light of everybody makes errors, at least he fessed up and resolved the problem with his family; so I think it speaks well of his corrective force.”

 

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Review-Journal writers Molly Ball and Mike Blasky contributed to this report.

 

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