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August 4, 2015

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Election Commission won’t punish John Ensign for cash to mistress

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Sam Morris

Sen. John Ensign speaks to the media about an affair he had with a former staffer Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at the Lloyd George Federal Building in Las Vegas.

Updated Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 | 3:09 p.m.

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint against Sen. John Ensign over a $96,000 payment his parents made to his former mistress and her family.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a campaign finance watchdog group, announced Friday that the commission had dismissed its complaint against Ensign, his parents, his campaign and his political action committee over the money paid to Cynthia Hampton, with whom the Nevada Republican has admitted having an affair. CREW contended it amounted to an illegal political donation to Ensign.

The FEC said in a written statement explaining its reasons that Ensign's parents considered the April 2008 payment to Hampton, her husband and their children a gift given out of concern for longtime family friends. Hampton is a former Ensign campaign aide, and her husband Doug Hampton used to be an Ensign congressional staffer. (RELATED: John Ensign signals support for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’)

The commission said Ensign's parents, Michael and Sharon Ensign, wrote a $96,000 check, intending that $24,000 go to each member of the Hampton family: Doug and Cynthia Hampton and their two sons. It said the Ensigns wanted to give the family $100,000 but gave a lesser amount because it would fall within the maximum permitted tax-free gift limits under IRS rules.

The senator's parents told the commission the gift was part of a pattern of financial largesse that they, the senator and his wife had given to the Hamptons over several years.

The senator admitted in June 2009 that he had the extramarital affair. The affair ended in 2008.

The commission's action doesn't mean the government is finished investigating John Ensign. He has been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department's public integrity section and the Senate ethics committee. The inquiries revolve around whether Ensign helped Doug Hampton violate federal lobbying restrictions.

Ensign announced earlier this week that he is preparing to run for a third term.

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