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July 4, 2015

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The Policy Racket

John Ensign poses for pictures, keeps low profile as 16-year run nears end

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Karoun Demirjian

Sen. John Ensign and his staff share a laugh between office photographs on the steps of the Senate at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 28, 2011.

Ensign's Final Days in Office

Sen. John Ensign has some fun with a staff member while taking office photographs on the steps of the Senate at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 28, 2011. Launch slideshow »

WASHINGTON - Sen. John Ensign has been keeping an exceptionally low profile for his last days in office, which he’s been spending in and around the Capitol complex while packing up a congressional career that’s spanned 16 years, the last decade’s worth in the Senate.

When Ensign announced his resignation, effective May 3, last week, it was a final act of defeat for a man whose political promise became the victim of an affair of his own creation.

But on Thursday, his departure only five days off, Ensign seemed like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders as he smiled and joked with staff, and evaded the Sun’s requests for an exit interview with a jovial shrug: “I’m not answering your questions -- I don’t have to anymore!”

Media scrutiny of Ensign has been fierce since he publicly announced and apologized for his affair with staffer Cynthia Hampton, the wife of his former best friend and chief of staff Doug Hampton, in the summer of 2009. Ensign’s avoided it like the plague, ducking and weaving his way around Congress to avoid the kleig lights.

While he appears to be maintaining that low public profile to the end of his truncated term, he’s doing it more out in the open and with a wider smile on his face, whether it’s packing up (he was overheard telling a staffer he invested in two big wardrobe packing boxes -- senators need to wear a lot of suits), taking office family photos with his staff on the Senate steps at the Capitol, or getting his former Senate credentials in the Senate ID office.

Ensign hasn’t said how long he plans to stay in D.C. or what he intends to do once he formally departs, past that he wants to stay in public life. But as his term as a public servant comes to a rather abrupt end, Ensign is valuing his privacy.

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