Report: Hamptons pose challenge to prosecutors in Ensign case

As investigators continue to probe into the activities of Sen. John Ensign after his extramarital affair, a report this morning on explored whether his chief accuser, Doug Hampton, would be a strong or a weak witness in any case against the Nevada Republican.

"On the one hand," Politico reports, Hampton and his wife Cindy could be "devastating witnesses" in a case against Ensign. Doug Hampton has provided potentially incriminating information against Ensign in a number of news interviews after Ensign’s admission last June that he and Cindy had a relationship in parts of 2007 and 2008.

But at the same time, Hampton has baggage as well. He was known to have sought as much as $8 million from Ensign after he learned of the affair and threatened to go public with the affair after he failed to obtain much out of the senator.

And, notes, Hampton did appear to lobby for two Nevada companies, with Ensign’s help, without registering as a lobbyist as required by law.

"There’s also the question of Hampton’s motivation: How would a jury view the testimony of an embittered husband, cuckolded by his own boss?" according to the report.

Ensign has not been charged with any crime, and he has maintained he has done no wrong in his dealings with the Hamptons and other issues that seem to have grown from the affair.

The scope of the Justice Department investigation has not been made clear. Beyond allegations that Ensign may have violated the law in attempting to cover up the affair, subpoenas that were issued to a handful of Nevada credit card companies also suggest investigators are looking into whether executives were encouraged to make political donations in exchange for help with business problems in Congress.

Experts were divided on Hampton, according to

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said there are "certainly questions about Doug Hampton’s suitability as a witness."

Sloan added Hampton may have enough emails and other documents in his possession that may incriminate Ensign.

Peter Zeidenberg, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s political corruption division, told the government probably would like to find more dirt on Ensign so that they didn’t have to rely on Hampton.

But ethics attorney Stan Brand said, "the government builds cases based on scumbags all the time. The question for a jury is not whether this guy is a nice guy … The question is whether he’s telling the truth."

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