Ensign Tried to Stymie Ethics Committee, Calls Come for Committee to Investigate


Since Wednesday, when the sex scandal engulfing Sen. John Ensign morphed into a public expense scandal, we’ve learned quite a few new details. Ensign was not blackmailed by Douglas Hampton. Cynthia Hampton’s salary at Ensign’s campaign doubled during the time of their affair. Ensign helped get jobs for Douglas Hampton and his son after they left Ensign’s Senate office and the NRSC, respectively.

What we still don’t know is whether Douglas Hampton was handsomely paid with taxpayer money when he left Ensign’s Senate office and whether this could constitute as hush money. There are beginning to be calls for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asking for the committee to investigate and require disclosure from Ensign. This is just such an awesome idea and here’s why:

Back in 2007, around the time that Ensign was pursuing his close friend’s wife, Ensign was leading a crusade to derail a bill that would require electronic filing of Senate campaign finance reports. (Yes, this bill, the one Sunlight has been advocating for since 2006.) How was Ensign trying to derail the bill? By offering an amendment that would require any group filing an ethics complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against a senator to disclose all of their donors (pretty much any lawyer will tell you that this is unconstitutional). This would, in effect, stymie the open process by which the Senate Ethics Committee accepts complaints and would likely stop the committee from pursuing investigations. The Senate Ethics Committee is currently far more active than the House Ethics Committee, which does not accept outside complaints.

(Currently, Sen. Pat Roberts is trying to block the same electronic filing bill with Ensign’s anti-investigation amendment. If you want to get rid of this Ensign protecting amendment, you can help out here.)

Now, I don’t know if Sen. Ensign was trying to make the ethics process difficult to protect his own hide, but give a listen to how important he takes this issue. He even states that ethics complaints could be written on a bar napkin. I’d gander that writing on bar napkins is something that Ensign is more used to than the Senate Ethics Committee.