Santorum admits tipping off Ensign


Two years after deflecting questions, Rick Santorum finally has fessed up that he tipped off U.S. Sen. John Ensign in June 2009 that his extramarital affair was about to be made public in a big way.

Santorum's role was a small one in the scandal that ultimately cost Ensign, R-Nev., his job as a U.S. senator. Santorum, a Republican former Pennsylvania senator, was widely rumored to be the tipster, but at the time he refused to talk about it.

"I'm not even going to dignify that question, to be honest with you," Santorum said when approached by a reporter for Politico.com after the scandal broke.

But last week, with the scandal having receded on Capitol Hill after Ensign's resignation in May, Santorum -- now running for president -- evidently felt better about talking when Politico tried him again outside a Republican luncheon in the U.S. Capitol.

Santorum acknowledged his role, which also was reported by the Senate ethics committee in its May report on the Ensign matter. Santorum, a Christian conservative, said he was alerting a friend to strong allegations after he received a note from Doug Hampton, who was trying to blow the whistle to Fox News about Ensign's affair with his wife.

"Now if you get an email from someone saying very salacious things about a friend that could be devastating to a person's friend, that could be devastating to a person's career, what would you do?" Santorum told Politico this past week.

Santorum added that Ensign somehow already knew about Hampton's letter to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. He said Ensign later told him that he wasn't the first person to sound an alert.

That same night, June 16, 2009, Ensign convened an emergency staff meeting in Washington to confess the affair. The next day he flew to Las Vegas to make it public before it blew up in the media. The rest is history.

-- Steve Tetreault

DEMOCRATIC ENDORSEMENTS

State Senate Democrats have taken the unusual step of endorsing candidates now for next year's election, even though the legislators they support could face primary challenges from other Democrats.

The Majority 2012 Initiative announced its support of Assembly members Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, and Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, for state Senate seats. The endorsements come before a three-member court-appointed redistricting panel has begun its work and long before the primary next June 12.

In addition, at least two other legislators, Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, and former Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, have expressed interest in running for the same seats.

"With term limits we have to do things a little different," said state Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas. "These two candidates we have known for a while and feel comfortable with. We figured it was important to endorse early."

Denis acknowledged Friday that state Senate Democrats did not make endorsements before the primary election in 2010, but he said when he served in the Assembly that primary endorsements were made.

Denis, who could become majority leader next year if Democrats maintain control of the state Senate, chairs the Majority Initiative. Other members include state Sens. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno; David Parks and Mark Manendo, both D-Las Vegas, and Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson. Support for Atkinson and Segerblom was unanimous.

Denis said the two candidates have pledged to work on the two major priorities facing the next Legislature: job creation and improving the education system.

Starting with the 2013 session, both houses of the Legislature will operate under a law that limits members from serving more than 12 years in the state Senate or the Assembly. But they can serve as long as 24 years in the Legislature by winning election in the other house when they have been blocked by term limits from running for re-election to their current seat.

-- Ed Vogel

REDISTRICTING HEARING

How election districts are drawn is crucial for every state legislator, but Republicans appear more interested in redistricting now than Democrats.

Republican state Sens. James Settelmeyer of Minden and Don Gustavson of Sparks were in attendance Wednesday in District Judge James T. Russell's courtroom in Carson City for a hearing on redistricting lawsuits.

No Democratic legislators were present, although party staff member Justin Gilbert attended the three-hour hearing.

Settelmeyer said afterward he is pleased Russell devised a plan to have redistricting maps in place by Nov. 16. Democrats hold an 11-10 advantage over Republicans in the state Senate, and how the districts are drawn could affect which party controls that house.

Citizens can give their views on redistricting during a 9:30 a.m. Oct. 10 meeting on the fourth floor in the Sawyer Building in Las Vegas, followed by one at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 11 in the Legislative Building in Carson City.

Litigation over the district boundaries must be completed by March so candidates can file for seats up for grabs in the 2012 elections.

-- Ed Vogel

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault @stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel @reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.