In a detailed response to the Senate Ethics Committee’s allegations that he violated laws and Senate rules in attempting to cover up an extramarital affair, lawyers for former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) reiterated that though he “deeply and sincerely regrets the personal failures and personal transgressions,” he had not participated in any illegal activity.
In the letter from Ensign’s legal counsel dated May 11, just one day before Senate Ethics Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) took to the Senate floor to announce that they had found credible evidence of wrongdoing, the former Senator asked his colleagues to “keep in mind” that “he has already paid the ultimate price” for his affair with the wife of ex-aide Doug Hampton.
“Given the losses he has caused and sustained already, he is hopeful that his actions in resigning and in providing these comments will help the Committee conclude its work in a manner that minimizes any additional harm to his family,” his attorneys wrote on his behalf.
In the letter, Ensign acknowledges assisting Hampton with obtaining work after he left Capitol Hill, but he said he did not coerce constituents to hire him as charged. Hampton was indicted for violating a one-year ban on lobbying the office where he formerly worked.
“He made it clear in such calls that he was recommending Doug Hampton and that any decision on whether or not to hire Hampton was up to the potential client,” his attorneys said.
Ensign’s lawyers also argued that the post-employment restrictions that Hampton is charged with violating “were never intended to apply to the conduct of current Senate members,” so Ensign could not have violated these rules.
As for the $96,000 checks that were written from an Ensign family trust to members of the Hampton family, which the special counsel concluded was gift that violated campaign finance law, Ensign acknowledged that he had, on occasion, referred to the payment as a “severance” but that there was no evidence he “ever used, or intended to use, the word ‘severance’ with any fixed or specific meaning.”
“On behalf of Senator Ensign, we conclude by noting again that he is not proud of his conduct, nor is he asking that his improper conduct be ignored. However he is asking that the Committee not conclude there was intentionality when that was not the case,” the letter concluded.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.