Apparently not only is John Ensign refusing to resign from office, he's announced he's going to run for reelection in 2012. These Republicans just really have no shame, do they? But as Rachel reports, it doesn't look like he's getting very much support from his Republican colleagues.
MADDOW: A most unexpected development today in the sex and money and ethics scandal that continues to engulf Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada. While there remain unanswered questions and un-followed leads, Ensign took a big leap today, declaring not only that he‘s not planning on resigning, but that he will also run for re-election three years from now.
In an interview with “The Las Vegas Sun,” Sen. Ensign said, quote, “I fully plan on running for re-election.” Of his supporters, he said, “I‘m going to work to earn their respect back.”
Sen. Ensign‘s process of earning back the respect of Nevada voters will, maybe, take some time. After calling on President Clinton to resign for having an affair while he was in office, after calling his Senate colleague, Larry Craig, a disgrace when Craig was caught in an airport public sex sting, calling on Craig to resign as well, by saying, “I wouldn‘t put myself, hopefully, in that kind of position, but if I was in a position like that, that‘s what I would do,” Sen. Ensign himself admitted to an affair with the wife of his former chief-of-staff.
He then said his mom and dad had given his mistress and her family a gift of $96,000 after Sen. Ensign told his parents about the affair. Still unanswered are questions about other cash deals associated with the affair.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee still not apologizing for or commenting on the fact that Ensign put the 19-year-old son of his mistress on the Republican Party‘s payroll during the time he was sleeping with the young man‘s mother. He then took the young man on the payroll once the affair ended.
Also, Doug Hampton, Sen. Ensign‘s former top aide and the husband of his mistress said in an interview that his wife was paid more than $25,000 severance by Sen. Ensign when the senator asked her to leave that job.
The payment never turned up on campaign finance disclosure forms. If it did happen and it was paid out of campaign funds, that would be an illegal payment that would put the senator on the hook for up to five years in prison.
And there are still unanswered questions about the nearly $100,000 cash payoff to the mistress and her family from Ensign‘s mom and dad. According to Ensign‘s lawyer, quote, “Sen. 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.”
So the scenario the senator has asked us to believe about that payment is that Sen. Ensign‘s mom and dad each gave their son‘s mistress a payment of $12,000. His mom and dad each also gave the husband of their son‘s mistress a payment of $12,000. And mom and dad each gave $12,000 payments to two of their son‘s mistress‘s three children.
If we‘re expected to believe this wasn‘t really just one big cash payoff to the mistress, this really was a gift to the kids for the kids‘ own use, then what did the poor third child do to deserve getting left out of all the loot?
Mom and dad got each two $12,000 checks. Child one and child two each got two $12,000 checks. But the third child? The third child wasn‘t deserving of money from the parents from mom‘s secret boyfriend?
Sen. Ensign has thus far not publicly bothered with answering any of these questions. He says that he has support from the leadership of both parties in the Senate. And others are telling him, quote, “Keep your head up. This thing will pass.”
That‘s not exactly what Senate minority leader Mitchell McConnell has said about this scandal, addressing it in his weekly news conference today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL(R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Well, I think Sen. Ensign will have to speak to those issues himself and you can ask him about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When asked again, Mr. McConnell turned around and walked out. Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons today, in a statement to THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW said, quote, “I am sure this is a very difficult time for Sen. Ensign and his family. There has been a lot of attention that has been given to this matter and I will not fuel anymore speculation.”
It‘s not a statement of condemnation, of course, from the governor; also not a statement of support. Meanwhile, we are still unable to get any statement of support for the senator‘s pledged re-election campaign from either Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee or from Brian Krolicki, the second-ranking Republican in the state of Nevada - he‘s the Republican lieutenant governor there.
But John Ensign does say he‘s running again. I wonder who his chief-of-staff is going to be?