Early last year, Senator John Ensign contacted a small circle of political and corporate supporters back home in Nevada — a casino designer, an airline executive, the head of a utility and several political consultants — seeking work for a close friend and top Washington aide, Douglas Hampton.
He’s a competent guy, and he’s looking to come back to Nevada. Do you know of anything?” one patron recalled Mr. Ensign asking.
The job pitch left out one salient fact: the senator was having an affair with Mr. Hampton’s wife, Cynthia, a campaign aide. The tumult that the liaison was causing both families prompted Mr. Ensign, a two-term Republican, to try to contain the damage and find a landing spot for Mr. Hampton.In the coming months, 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, often after urging from Mr. Hampton.
While the affair made national news in June, the role that Mr. Ensign played in assisting Mr. Hampton and helping his clients has not been previously disclosed. Several experts say those activities may have violated an ethics law that bars senior aides from lobbying the Senate for a year after leaving their posts...read on