Ensign spends another $97,000 for lawyers

WASHINGTON — Sen. John Ensign spent at least $97,000 over the past three months on attorneys defending him in ethics and criminal investigations, according to new U.S. Senate records.

The expenses put Ensign at close to $700,000 in legal fees he has reported on various official documents.

Further, he has said he spent “several hundred thousand dollars” out of his own pocket fighting allegations stemming from a 2007-08 extramarital affair.

The latest disclosure, first reported Thursday by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, details recent activity in the legal defense fund Ensign established in May. An additional set of reports is due later this month.

Covering October through December, the Ensign legal fund reported spending $101,111. That includes $97,030 in payments to the law firm of Wiley Rein, LLP, and $4,000 to a Las Vegas accounting firm.

Over the same period, Ensign collected $62,675 in donations, mostly from Republican gaming sources.

Among contributors were Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, $6,000; his wife, Miriam, a physician, $10,000; daughter Shelley Adelson, $6,000; Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn, $10,000; Wynn fiancee Andrea Hissom, $10,000; state Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and wife Sharron, $300; and the W.A. Richardson Family Trust, $10,000, associated with a former executive of the Mandalay Resort Group.

Since Ensign established the defense fund, he collected $127,000. He said in November he had stopped asking for money, saying “it was just too painful.”

Ensign, a Republican and two-term incumbent, says he is running for re-election in 2012 . He has denied breaking any laws or Senate rules and has declared himself humbled by the scandal.

At least three sets of lawyers have defended the Nevada Republican on allegations he violated Senate ethics rules and federal lobbying and campaign finance laws.

All the accusations stemmed from an extramarital affair he acknowledged having with family friend and campaign treasurer Cynthia Hampton over nine months in 2007 and 2008.

The Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission late last year completed their investigations without charges against Ensign. A probe by the Senate Ethics Committee remains ongoing.

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