Times: Ex-Aide Says Ensign Helped Him Skirt Ethics Rules

Posted October 1, 2009 at 6:21pm

A former aide to Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) is accusing Ensign not only of helping him violate ethics rules governing lobbying by former aides, but also of getting him a job and stocking his new practice with clients the lawmaker later helped, the New York Times reported Thursday evening.According to the Times, Ensign helped Douglas Hampton get his job as a lobbyist and contacted a number of donors, including a casino designer, an airline executive and a utility executive, on behalf of Hampton. At the time, Ensign was having an affair with Hampton’s wife, who worked for his campaign.Following his departure from Ensign’s office, “the senator arranged for Mr. Hampton to join a political consulting firm and lined up several donors as his lobbying clients, according to interviews, e-mail messages and other records. Mr. Ensign and his staff then repeatedly intervened on the companies’ behalf with federal agencies in Washington, often after urging from Mr. Hampton,— the paper said.According to the paper, in an interview Hampton acknowledged that he and Ensign understood they were violating a one-year ban on lobbying by former Senate staffers but chose to move ahead with their plan anyway.“Mr. Hampton said he and Mr. Ensign were aware of the lobbying restriction but chose to ignore it. He recounted how the senator helped him find clients and ticked off several steps Mr. Ensign took to assist them with their agendas in Washington, activities confirmed by federal officials and executives with the businesses,— the paper said.The accusations are the latest in a scandal involving Ensign and the Hamptons. Earlier this year, Ensign acknowledged having an affair with Hampton’s wife, and later acknowledged that his parents made a series of payments to the Hampton family.A number of Ensign’s colleagues – including Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) – have been caught up in the scandal because Hampton confronted Ensign about the affair at their group home in Washington, D.C.Although it is unclear whether a formal ethics investigation will be launched, a Democratic aide noted that “anytime we are presented with [evidence] … we open a preliminary inquiry— to review it.