Ensign's former mistress speaks in ethics report

Two days after John Ensign promised a fellow Christian senator and advisers he would stop sleeping with one of his staffers -- the wife of his top aide and close friend -- the betrayed husband caught the lovers at a Las Vegas hotel.

The husband, Doug Hampton, called Ensign's spiritual counselor, who had intervened before. He reported seeing the cars of his wife, Cindy, and Ensign in a hotel parking lot not far from their Summerlin neighborhood. The adviser told Hampton to go home. He'd take care of it -- again.

"I know exactly where you are," the adviser, Tim Coe, told Ensign when he called him at the hotel. "I know exactly what you are doing. Put your pants on and go home."

Ensign refused.

"I can't. I love her," he told Coe.

Ensign finally did leave and later told Coe that he wanted to marry Cindy Hampton.

It was a Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008, three months into Ensign's affair, which she said he initiated and relentlessly pursued until August of that year when she finally ended it in an email. Hampton begged him to stop contacting her, saying her "life and family is in a shambles."

Cindy Hampton, 48, has never spoken publicly about the affair that brought down Ensign, 53. The new details come from interviews she gave to investigators working for the Senate Ethics Committee, which released its report on Thursday after 22 months of work.

Six of the 68 pages in the report are focused on the affair and read like a dime-store novel. It portrays Ensign as a sexual predator who took advantage of Hampton and would not leave her alone until she agreed to cheat on her husband, and keep cheating after they were caught several times.

"According to Ms. Hampton, Senator Ensign 'just (wouldn't) stop,' and 'kept calling and calling,' and 'would never take no for an answer,' " the report said, describing her as an emotional "mess."

The affair began in November 2007 after the Hamptons' home was burglarized. The Ensigns, close friends of the couple who lived three minutes away, invited them to stay in their house while the damage from the break-in was repaired. Darlene Ensign and Cindy Hampton had gone to high school together. The couples had vacationed together, including in Hawaii with the Ensigns picking up the tab.

"Intimate details of the affair" were not asked about in the interviews, according to Senate investigators, who inquired solely about the "initiation, timing, and duration of the affair."

When Ensign first asked Hampton to see him, she asked if he had "lost (his) mind."

"Yes," Ensign replied, and she soon yielded, meeting him "periodically on the weekends."

Once the affair began, she said she feared losing her job as treasurer of Ensign's leadership PAC and his campaign committee. Ensign told her, "I'll do everything I can to keep you" employed.

Their secret trysts did not stay secret long.

On Dec. 23, 2007, Doug Hampton discovered the affair when he read a cellphone text message to his wife from Ensign. The Hamptons had been driving to the airport to pick up their son for the Christmas holidays, and Ensign was on his way there, too, in a separate car.

"How wonderful it is ... Scared, but excited," the text message said.

"I know what you and John are doing," Hampton told his wife, who had left her cellphone in the car when she got out to pick up their son's girlfriend. He then called Ensign to confront him.

In the airport parking lot, Doug Hampton jumped out of his car and chased Ensign, according to Cindy Hampton, who fled into the airport where she sat for "hours." She later took a taxi home.

On Christmas Eve, the Hamptons went to the Ensigns' home to talk things over.

Ensign wept, apologized and promised the affair would stop. The couples then met with their children -- three in each family who were friends as well -- before celebrating Christmas together.

The affair resumed in January 2008 after Ensign began texting her again.

Ensign gave her $3,000 in cash to buy things for herself and to pay for Las Vegas hotel rooms.

"It always had to be under my name. It could never be under his name," she said of reservations.

Hampton described herself as despondent at this stage -- she began therapy in February 2008 -- while the senator acted like a man in love, planning their future together.

"Senator Ensign told Ms. Hampton on more than one occasion that he wanted to marry her," including "while they attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington," the report said.

Again, the cheating couple were caught.

Doug Hampton discovered the affair was continuing when he was with Ensign in Iraq on a 2008 congressional trip from Feb. 7-12. The senator had made $1,000 in calls to his lover back in the United States. (Ensign gave Cindy Hampton money to pay the home phone bill. She used a cashier's check to avoid detection.)

In Iraq, the suspicious husband borrowed Ensign's cellphone. A look at the call history tipped him off, although Ensign had listed Cindy Hampton as "Aunt Judy" on his phone to disguise her.

Back in the United States, Doug Hampton sought assistance to end the affair from Ensign's spiritual adviser, Coe of the International Foundation. The religious group is associated with a Christian boarding house known as the "C Street" residence in the capital where the Nevada senator lived. Coe recommended involving Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., another resident and a "higher authority."

Coburn, Coe, other advisers and Doug Hampton together confronted Ensign during an "intervention" after the senator returned to Washington on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day. Ensign "started to lie" but was told "we know the truth," so he confessed. Hampton "was very emotional" and "at one point got very close to a physical confrontation with Ensign," so Coburn asked him to leave.

"We'll take it from here," Coburn told him. "We'll take care of this."

They made Ensign write an apologetic letter to Cindy Hampton, breaking off the affair. Ensign did, but immediately called her to tell her to ignore the missive, sent overnight via Federal Express.

Two days later, Doug Hampton stood unbelieving in the Las Vegas hotel parking lot, looking at the cars of his wife and employer and calling Coe to complain the intervention hadn't worked.

Early the next morning, the Hamptons went to Ensign's house to talk about the affair while the senator's wife was in California with her daughter.

Doug Hampton wanted "things to go back to how they were." Ensign delivered a shocking reply.

"Senator Ensign stated that he was in love with Ms. Hampton and wanted to marry her and that Doug could not work for him any longer," the report said.

Cindy Hampton said Ensign wanted her husband out of his office. That way, he couldn't see Ensign's schedule and the senator could add "fictitious events ... so he could meet with Ms. Hampton."

Ensign told Darlene Ensign about his feeling for Cindy Hampton and moved out of his house. He lived with his parents, who urged him to drop the affair. Instead, he sought ways to keep it hidden, giving his lover money to buy two cellphones "to be used exclusively so that they could communicate without detection." They exchanged 76 text messages from March 7 to March 10 until Darlene Ensign learned about the phones, "and they were disconnected." Cindy Hampton refused to buy replacements.

Ensign also created fake email accounts for the cheating couple to use, including "fredschwartz72@yahoo.com," "mariaschwartz@yahoo.com" and "maryholland82@yahoo.com."

The senator seemed obsessed, calling her "multiple times during this period" from the Capitol, the Senate gym and from New York during a fundraising trip, the report said.

Coe kept trying to end the affair and said he asked Coburn to call Ensign's father. He told investigators Coburn "absolutely" called Mike Ensign, who said "he'd handle it."

Ensign called Coe in a fury, cursing and saying he had no right to involve his dad.

"I've never seen him so angry," Coe said, adding Ensign used "all sorts of expletives."

Coburn denied speaking with Mike Ensign after he was told about the affair, the report said. Ensign's father did not remember but "allowed as how the call may have taken place."

In March, Coburn staged a second intervention at "C Street," confronting Ensign in his bed.

On April Fool's Day, Ensign sent Cindy Hampton an email asking to talk, saying it "concerns your job and a few loose ends." She was "shaking" when she called him, fearing she would lose her job.

Ensign said "he missed me and wanted to still see me," she said. "Honestly, in the back of my mind, I just thought John would never hurt our family."

The affair started to cool with only one meeting in June and one in July 2008, she said.

"She felt that she was not a healthy person at that time, and her attitude during these meetings was that 'my life is ruined, so whatever,' " the report said. "His persistence wore her down."

Finally, she sent the August email "imploring him to stop contacting her." She never heard from him again and has seen him only once since, at a high school graduation.

Cindy Hampton has left Las Vegas, Ensign and her old life behind. She filed for bankruptcy, is filing for divorce and "is moving out of California to work for a Christian organization," the report said.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.