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October 3, 2015

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jon ralston:

The Ensign report: Vindication for Doug Hampton?

Doug Hampton, the cuckolded husband whose wife was pursued by ex-Sen. John Ensign, is under indictment by the Justice Department.

And Ensign, accused by the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee in a devastating report of obstructing justice, lying to the Federal Election Commission, violating campaign finance laws and conspiring to violate cooling-off laws, has been told by the Justice Department to have a nice life.

The department, now pictured next to the word “oxymoron” in the illustrated dictionary, should be embarrassed today, even more so than it was after botching the Ted Stevens prosecution. That a relentlessly thorough special counsel, Carol Elder Bruce, was able to produce a riveting and revolting report documenting Ensign’s depredations, including what is alleged to be a massive cover-up with email shenanigans and document destruction and a quid pro quo system whereby businesses hired Hampton or they were cut off by the senator’s office, makes a mockery of the Justice Department.

The ethics panel sent referral letters to both the department and the FEC, and Chairwoman Barbara Boxer made it clear on the floor Thursday Ensign was facing possible expulsion.

Justice Department? I don’t think so.

Hampton indicted and Ensign not. I don’t think so.

The travesty that began on June 16, 2009, when Ensign had the indecency to go public with his affair while lacking the decency to resign, has reached a seminal moment, with the chance of the ousted senator facing charges greatly enhanced. The document released by the ethics panel Thursday does many things, including a reaffirmation of how creepy this entire episode has been. But most of all, it validates many, many statements Hampton made, first on “Face to Face” less than a month after Ensign’s disclosure and later to national media outlets.

Nothing substantive Hampton has asserted has ever been refuted and now there is independent evidence to back up his allegations.

Justice Department? I don’t think so.

Hampton indicted and Ensign not. I don’t think so.

There’s much more, too. Some tantalizing, albeit sickening excerpts:

• The role played by Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, Ensign’s gynecologist who once claimed doctor-patient confidentiality to block the ethics probers, is outlined as a go-between. Although he scoffed at Hampton’s initial $8 million request to start over, the report says Coburn advocated that the “Hamptons should receive an amount of money above and beyond that to start over ... have some living money while they were looking for new employment, and possibly some seed money to send the children off to college.” Now that’s a nice delivery, doctor.

• The night before he disclosed the affair, Ensign was tipped off by presidential pretender Rick Santorum after Hampton contacted the ex-Pennsylvania senator to tell him he was going to Fox News. Ensign gathered his staff to disclose the affair with Hampton’s wife, a bridesmaid at his wedding, at a meeting that lasted until 3 a.m.: “Several staff members who attended recalled the use of the term severance or the concept of severance.” That is, Ensign lied to the FEC and many others about his parents’ goodwill and serendipitous “gift.”

• The report says Ensign conspired, as Hampton has claimed, to help him violate the one-year lobbying ban: “Sen. Ensign facilitated Mr. Hampton’s unlawful post-employment lobbying by pressuring contributors and constituents ... to hire Mr. Hampton even though he had no public policy experience or value as a lobbyist other than access to the senator and his office. For example, when a prominent Nevada constituent (Sig Rogich) declined to hire Mr. Hampton, Sen. Ensign instructed John Lopez, his chief of staff, to jack him up to high heaven and inform the constituent that he was cut off from Sen. Ensign and could not contact him any longer.” Quid pro quo, Sen. Ensign?

Justice Department? I don’t think so.

Hampton indicted and Ensign not. I don’t think so.

There is so much more, too, some of it cringe-inducing — spiritual adviser Tim Coe of the infamous Jesus frat on C Street telling Ensign: “I know exactly where you are. I know exactly what you are doing. Put your pants on and go home.”

He’s home now, forced out with the ethics panel at his doorstep. But at what incalculable cost to his family, the Hamptons, the Senate, the Republican Party?

If the Justice Department has any sense of justice left, it will immediately announce a deal with Hampton that allows him to avoid prison time and start his life over. And if it doesn’t want to become a national laughingstock, the Justice Department will shuck its Stevens hangover and take a sober look at a recent private citizen who appears to have the moral compass of a serial felon.

Download the full special counsel report at

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