Updated: 3:43 p.m.
Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) Thursday acknowledged that his family made nearly $100,000 in payments to family members of his former mistress after her husband, a longtime aide and personal friend, discovered the relationship.
Since Ensign admitted his affair with former campaign staffer Cynthia Hampton, he has repeatedly declined to comment about whether he made any payments to her, her husband, Doug, or other members of the family.
But in a statement released by his attorney Thursday afternoon, Ensign for the first time acknowledged that in April 2008, his family — backed by his father’s casino and land development empire — made a series of payments to both Hamptons and their children, totaling $96,000.
“In April 2008, Senator John Ensign’s parents each made gifts to Doug Hampton, Cindy Hampton, and two of their children in the form of a check totaling $96,000. Each gift was limited to $12,000. The payments were made as gifts, accepted as gifts and complied with tax rules governing gifts. After the Senator told his parents about the affair, his parents decided to make the gifts out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends during a difficult time. The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others,— Ensign’s lawyer Paul Coggins said in a statement.
Coggins also stressed that the payments were not from campaign or federal funds, and were not related to either Hampton’s work for Ensign. “None of the gifts came from campaign or official funds nor were they related to any campaign or official duties. Senator Ensign has complied with all applicable laws and Senate ethics rules,— Coggins said.
The newest revelations come in response to a television interview that aired Wednesday in Las Vegas in which Doug Hampton accused Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) of urging Ensign — his roommate — to give the Hamptons millions of dollars to pay off their mortgage. Ensign and Coburn have both denied those charges.
Ensign told the Las Vegas Sun that he does not plan to resign. “I said before, I always planned on serving and working hard — working harder than I ever worked — and I’m going to continue to do that,— Ensign said Thursday afternoon.
Criminal attorney Stan Brand said that while the payments “make the story more interesting,— they still do not appear to be illegal. Ensign’s parents essentially provided gifts to the Hamptons, “which they are entitled to do. I don’t think that’s an ethic violation of any kind.—
Brand argued that private citizens and corporations make cash settlements all the time, which is perfectly legal, and under Internal Revenue Service rules, “you can gift as much as you want to certain people.—