Ensign issues statement on silence about affair

Facing criticism for his silence in the face of questions surrounding a sex scandal, Sen. John Ensign today issued a statement purporting to explain himself.

Potential investigations by the Federal Election Commission and Senate Ethics Committee make public comment on the extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer inadvisable, Ensign, R-Nev., said in a prepared statement issued by his office late today.

“I know there are questions regarding my affair with Cindy Hampton that people want to know the answers to,” the statement says. “It was reported, however, that CREW was planning to file complaints with the Senate Ethics Committee and the Federal Election Commission, so I have been advised not to publicly comment further at this time.”

CREW is Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan government watchdog group that has called for ethics, election commission, and federal criminal investigations of Ensign’s actions in relation to the affair with Hampton last year.

“If any inquiries are undertaken, then I am confident they will be resolved in my favor and those questions will be answered,” the statement continues. “I am very sorry this issue has caused a great deal of embarrassment and pain for my family, the Hamptons, and many of my supporters. I remain committed to working hard for the people of Nevada on the important matters before the Senate.”

Ensign, 51, came forward June 16 to admit to the nine-month affair with Hampton, 46, who worked as a bookkeeper for the senator’s campaign and political action committees while her husband, Doug, 47, was a top staffer in Ensign’s Senate office. The Hamptons were longtime close friends of the Ensign family.

Doug and Cindy Hampton both left Ensign’s employ by May 2008, and Doug Hampton has alleged that they were dismissed because of the affair. Ensign has said the affair continued until August 2008.

According to Ensign’s lawyer, the senator’s parents gave the Hampton family $96,000 in April 2008 as a gesture of generosity after they learned about the affair.

Though Ensign’s lawyer called the money a gift, Doug Hampton has described the payment as an employment severance, which could make it a violation of federal campaign finance law. CREW has said the payments as well as the potential employment issues raised by the situation should be investigated by all the relevant authorities.

This week, Ensign’s Senate office faced more turmoil with the news that the senator’s chief of staff and communications director were departing.

Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.

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