Ensign returns to Senate; ethics complaint to be filed

WASHINGTON — All eyes were on Sen. John Ensign as he returned to the Senate today, but the Nevada Republican declined to say anything more about his extramarital affair and the ensuing scandal that has embroiled him and the Las Vegas couple involved.

Ensign ran a gantlet of reporters and photographers camped outside his office on his way to cast his first vote since he hurriedly departed Washington on June 16. He rushed to Las Vegas to acknowledge a forbidden relationship, believing the story was about to break in the national media.

Ensign declined to supply further information about his relationship with Doug and Cyndy Hampton, former aides to Ensign and once close friends of the senator and his wife, Darlene.

In response to questions about the Hamptons and whether he planned to resign, Ensign repeatedly told reporters he would not add to comments he made last week. Those remarks still have left questions lingering about the dalliance and its aftermath.

Ensign, 51, has admitted he and Cindy Hampton, 46, a former treasurer for his political funds, had an affair over nine months, from December 2007 and August 2008.

Subsequently, Ensign’s office has charged that Doug Hampton, who worked as a top administrative aide to the Nevadan from November 2006 to May 1, 2008, had made an “outrageous” demand for cash and other financial benefits.

For his part, Doug Hampton, 47, pleaded for help from the Fox News Channel to expose Ensign. In a June 11 letter to anchorwoman Megyn Kelly, Hampton said Ensign’s “relentless pursuit of my wife led to our dismissal in April 2008.”

“The actions of Senator Ensign have ruined our lives and careers and left my family in shambles,” Hampton said in the letter. The Hamptons through their attorney, Daniel Albregts of Las Vegas, have declined to talk further.

Meanwhile, a government watchdog group said today it was preparing to file a complaint against Ensign with the Senate Ethics Committee, which has jurisdiction to investigate “allegations of improper conduct that may reflect upon the Senate.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington will file a complaint this week, Executive Director Melanie Sloan said.

The Ensign case “does have a lot of tentacles,” Sloan said. “We are going to ask the committee to investigate because the facts are not all out.”

Sloan said Hampton’s allegation that he and his wife were dismissed because of the affair should be investigated.

“If either of them were fired because of the affair it would violate Senate Rule 42,” Sloan said. That is the rule against discrimination in Senate employment practices.

“Even if the affair was consensual you wouldn’t get to terminate somebody because she is no longer having sex with you, and you cannot terminate her husband,” Sloan said.

Also, after a week of silence, the Nevada Democratic Party weighed in today, calling for Ensign to answer questions including whether the Hamptons were fired and whether he paid severance to Cindy Hampton out of his own pocket, as the New York Times reported last week.

“It’s time for John Ensign to answer these questions, so Nevadans can put this matter behind them, and so that their senator can move on and focus on the work he was elected to do,” said Phoebe Sweet, the party’s communications director.

Against that backdrop, Ensign returned to his office in the Russell Building about 3:15 p.m. today. He refused to answer questions, and remained behind closed doors until shortly after 5:30 p.m., when he emerged with Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., himself the target of an ethics complaint. The two made their way across the street to the Capitol to vote on a tourism bill.

Asked why he had lodged an accusation of extortion against Doug Hampton, Ensign said: “First of all, I never said that. Second of all, I have no more other comments to make. I refer you back to my statements I made in Las Vegas.”

In describing the alleged demand for money by Hampton, Ensign aides did not use the term extortion.

Asked whether he was considering resigning from the Senate, he said: “I have said what I am going to say on this matter and have done what I am going to do.”

Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said later Ensign does not plan to resign.

“I’ve just been getting back to work,” Ensign said. “I talked with some individual people and am trying to get back to just serving the people as best I can.”

Ensign acknowledged he had called other senators since his return, but his office did not say whom. He also met with his staff individually and in small groups, telling them he was “disappointed” in his actions. Reaction among staffers was “mixed,” according to several of them.

Ensign’s office would not say whether Ensign had asked Brownback to accompany him to the Senate chamber, or whether Brownback volunteered. Either way, it spared the Nevadan from making a potentially awkward entrance by himself to join colleagues in the Senate “club.”

For several minutes in the Senate chamber, Ensign stood near the front of the well on the Republican side, making conversation with Brownback.

Eventually, a freshman Republican, Jim Risch of Idaho, who is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee, came over and shook his hand.

Over the next 10 minutes, he was approached by 18 other senators, including a half dozen Democrats, who either patted his back, touched his arm or shook his hand in greeting. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., gave him a hug.

Senators who greeted Ensign included Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., John Kerry, D-Mass., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Mark Warner, D-Va.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., another member of the Senate Ethics Committee, also shook his hand in greeting.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who Hampton said was present at a February 2008 gathering where Ensign was confronted about the affair, asked Ensign to sit for a conversation. It could not be determined what they were discussing, and Coburn declined to comment to a reporter.

Ensign eventually slipped out of the chamber, eluding reporters. He declined to comment later, but said through his spokesman that senators were “very gracious” in their greetings to him.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., was on the other side of the chamber and did not approach Ensign. Reid spokesman Jon Summers said later the two senators had not met or spoken since Ensign’s return.

Once it is filed, the ethics complaint against Ensign would be reviewed by the six-member Senate Ethics Committee whose membership is three Democrats and three Republicans. Its chairwoman is Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

The outcome of any complaint ranges from its dismissal to a recommendation that the senator be expelled for improper or illegal conduct. The committee does its work in secret under strict confidentiality rules, and there are no timelines for taking action, leading some ethics watchdogs to complain about its effectiveness.

At least four other senators currently are being investigated by the Ethics Committee, the Justice Department or state authorities, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

The group is considered one of the more aggressive Capitol Hill watchdogs under Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and attorney on the House and Senate judiciary committees.

The group has filed complaints involving lawmakers of both parties.

Since January of 2008 it has filed ethics complaints against Brownback for “misleading fundraising”; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for “failure to disclose gambling winnings”; Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., for his role in firing a former federal prosecutor; Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., over a questionable rental deal; and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., for obtaining a $2 million earmark four days after receiving campaign donations from the beneficiaries.

The Senate Ethics Committee has not disclosed the outcome of those complaints.

The group also urged the House and Senate to investigate members of Congress who might have received favorable loans from Countrywide Financial, one of the leading firms tied to the collapse of the market in subprime mortgages.

Contact Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

Protesters Line Streets for President Trump's Arrival in Las Vegas
Hundreds lined the streets in front of Suncoast to protest President Donald Trump's arrival in Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Thunder Mountain monument stands as a tribute to Native American culture
Caretaker Fred Lewis talks about Thunder Mountain monument in central Nevada, made from concrete and found items. The five-acre site is a tribute to Native Peoples of the West. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New CCSD superintendent Jesus F. Jara aims for 1st in the nation
On his third day as Clark County School District superintendent, Jesus F. Jara talks about his vision for the future during a visit to Del Sol Academy of the Performing Arts on Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Ceremony Recognizes Refugee Students, Graduates
Rosy Mibulano, a graduate of Las Vegas High School who came to America from the Congo in 2015, was recognized in a ceremony for refugee students in Clark County. Like many other students relocated to Las Vegas from countries around the world, Rosy had a challenging high school experience, from learning English to adjusting to American customs and taking care of her family. On top of that, she wants to go to school to become a nurse so she can take care of her mother, who suffers from diabetes. The annual Refugee Recognition Ceremony celebrates the enormous lengths these young adults go through to create a new life for themselves. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Water leak at Mandalay Bay convention center
The convention center area of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas experienced major flooding Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Melinda Cook
Hollywood Memorabilia Up For Grabs at Las Vegas Auction
Elvis Presley's car, Marilyn Monroe's bras, Han Solo's blaster, and Jerry Lewis's "Nutty Professor" suit are just some of the items that are up for auction at Julien's Auctions at Planet Hollywood June 22 and 23. The auction's viewing room at Planet Hollywood is open to the public 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Saturday at Planet Hollywood. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Springs Preserve Exhibit Shows Off "Nature's Ninjas"
"Nature's Ninjas" arrives at the Springs Preserve, in an exhibit and live show featuring critters that come with natural defenses, from armadillos to snakes, poison dart frogs to scorpions and tarantulas (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CrossRoads of Southern Nevada psychiatric urgent care to open in Las Vegas
Jeff Iverson, who operates the nonprofit sober living facility Freedom House, is opening a private addiction treatment center that will operate a detoxification center and transitional living for substance users trying to recover. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser gives update of officer-involved shooting
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser provides an update about an officer-involved shooting at Radwick Drive and Owens Avenue in the northeast Las Vegas on Thursday. A robbery suspect was shot and killed. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Wayne Newton surprises burglars
Wayne Newton and his wife, Kathleen, arrived at their southeast Las Vegas home shortly before midnight on Wednesday to find two burglars inside their house. The burglars fled and were seen heading north through the property. Las Vegas police quickly set up a perimeter and launched an extensive search of the area, but the suspects were able to escape. It was unclear if the burglars got away with anything of value. Several items, under the watchful eyes of the police, were seen on the ground near the home's main driveway. Neither Newton, nor his wife, were injured. The Newtons were not available for comment.
Police Officers Turn Off Body Cameras
In four separate body camera videos from the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting released Wednesday, officers in a strike team are instructed to turn their body cameras off and comply with the request.
Debra Saunders reports from Singapore
Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent talks about the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.
How long will North Korea's denuclearization take?
In Singapore, Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent Debra Saunders asks President Donald Trump how long North Korea's denuclearization will take. White House video.
LVCVA purchase of gift cards hidden
A former LVCVA executive hid the purchase of $90,000 in Southwest Airlines gift cards in records at the agency. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, said the money was for promotional events and did not disclose that it was for gift cards. Lawson also instructed Southwest employees to submit invoices without mentioning the purchases were for the cards. More than $50,000 of the cards cannot be accounted for. The convention authority is publicly funded . Lawson recently resigned.
Kim Jong Un visits Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his entourage visited the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore briefly Monday night, local time. (Video by Philip Chope)
Coca-Cola Bottle Purse Has 9,888 Diamonds
Designer Kathrine Baumann and jeweler Aaron Shum set the Guinness World Record for most diamonds (9,888) set on a handbag. The Coca Cola bottle-shaped purse was on display at the Coca Cola Store on the Strip. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sentosa Island a pleasure resort with a pirate past
The site of Tuesday's U.S.-North Korea summit is known for theme parks and resorts. But before that, it was known as a pirate island. (Debra Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Judge Sandra Pomrenze's comment about girl's hair
Nevada Races Full of Women From Both Sides
It's already been a historic election season for women in politics. Record numbers of women are running for political office all over the country - including Nevada. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
East Las Vegas home damaged by fire
Clark County Fire Department crews responded to a house fire in east Las Vegas Thursday morning. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
911 call: Mom tries to get to son shot at Route 91
A woman stuck on the interstate during the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, tries to get to her son. 911 call released by Las Vegas police.
Las Vegas 911 caller reports people shot on Oct. 1
A 911 caller on Oct. 1, 2017, reports several people shot at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.
911 call from woman under stage in Las Vegas shooting
A 911 call from a woman underneath the stage at the Route 91 Harvest festival during the Oct. 1, 2017, Las Vegas shooting.
LVCVA facing scandal over gift cards
LVCVA is facing a growing scandal over airline gift cards. LVCVA bought $90,000 in Southwest Airline gift cards between 2012 and 2017. Now auditors can’t account for more than $50,000 of the cards. CEO Rossi Ralenkotter and his family used $16,207 in gift cards on 56 trips. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, was responsible for buying and distributing the cards. He recently resigned.
Siblings separated in the foster care system get a day together
St. Jude's Ranch for Children and Cowabunga Bay Cares program partnered to bring 75 siblings together for the day to play on the water slides and in the pools at the Henderson water park. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People flee the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Las Vegas police released footage from a camera on Mandalay Bay of the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Aaliyah Inghram awarded medal of courage
Aaliyah Inghram, a 10-year-old girl who was shot while protecting her 18-month-old brother and 4-year-old cousin during a shooting on May 8, awarded medal of courage. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like