Sen. Ensign Resigns Amid Ethics Investigation


No longer will I be able to use the word “cuckold” on this blog.

Sen. John Ensign will no longer be a senator effective May 3. The embattled Nevadan is resigning his seat after 11 years amid a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his dealings with the former staffer turned lobbyist that he cuckolded (okay, one more time).

Ensign’s rationale for retirement is a tried-and-true one: the investigation is putting too much pressure on his family. This is a fair statement. These investigations tend to put extreme pressure on family members involved, particularly when the matter is so personal. While this may be a fair excuse it also belies the fact that the committee investigation into Ensign was likely getting too close for comfort.

Last year the Department of Justice dropped a probe of Ensign’s conduct with his former chief of staff Doug Hampton and instead brought charges against Hampton for violating a number of lobbying statutes. The Senate Ethics Committee, which usually defers investigation while the Department of Justice conducts criminal investigations, continued their investigation after the criminal investigation was dropped. Committee Chair Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., stated that the committee will not end its investigation, “The Senate Ethics Committee has worked diligently for 22 months on this matter and will complete its work in a timely fashion. Senator Ensign has made the appropriate decision.”

There is little doubt that a committee report on the investigation will be deeply embarrassing for Ensign with details of his aid to Hampton as a lobbyist and the sordid and sad details of his affair with Hampton’s wife. Ensign’s resignation could be a sign that the investigation uncovered new details regarding how Ensign helped Hampton obtain both his lobbying job and his lobbying clients, who were all close to Ensign and sought influence in his office.

Ensign’s resignation is a common practice among lawmakers facing serious ethics inquiries from their peers. It is one biggest reasons why lawmakers rarely face sanction or expulsion. Notable resignations amid inquiries included Sen. Bob Packwood, Reps. Bob Ney and Randy Cunningham (both of whom were convicted of felonies), and Rep. Mark Foley.