Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2019

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John Ensign: Timeline of a Scandal

June 16, 2009 -- Ensign acknowledges an extramarital affair that took place between December 2007 and August 2008 with Cynthia Hampton, a member of his campaign staff and wife of former top aide Doug Hampton. Read his prepared statement.

June 17, 2009 -- Ensign resigns his GOP leadership post. It is reported that Cynthia Hampton, one-time mistress and campaign treasurer, saw her salary double during the time of the affair, according to federal election documents. Her 19-year-old son, the Sun learned, was paid $5,400. Read the statement the Hamptons released regarding the affair.

June 18, 2009 -- Ensign’s office says the reason he went public about the affair is because Doug Hampton had approached the media with the story. Earlier reports had said that senator came forward because the couple had tried to extort the senator for hush money. Read the text of the letter Doug Hampton sent to Fox News.

June 19, 2009 -- The dispute between Ensign and the Hamptons escalates. Ensign releases a statement saying Doug Hampton had made "outrageous" and "exorbitant" demands.

June 22, 2009 -- Ensign returns to Washington and makes his first public appearance since announcing his affair. Also, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, announces its plans to file a complaint against Ensign with the Senate Ethics Committee.

June 23, 2009 -- At the weekly Republican senatorial lunch gathering, Ensign apologies to his colleagues. Elsewhere in Washington, Ensign is warmly received.

June 24, 2009 -- The Sun learns Fox News had the letter from Doug Hampton three days earlier than it said.

June 26, 2009 - Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s teary-eyed admission of a liaison in Argentina shifts the focus of the national political press corps.

July 8, 2009 -- Doug Hampton speaks publicly for the first time about his wife’s affair with Sen. John Ensign on "Face to Face with Jon Ralston." Also, Ensign's office acknowledges that Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., had encouraged Ensign to end the affair long ago. In conjunction with the interview on "Face to Face," the Sun obtains a handwritten letter from Ensign to Cynthia Hampton regarding the affair.

July 9, 2009 -- The second part of the interview with Doug Hampton airs on "Face to Face." Doug Hampton tells Jon Ralston that Ensign paid Cynthia Hampton considerably more than $25,000 in severance when she was told to leave her job with Ensign’s campaign committee in April 2008. Ensign did not report the payment, as required by law, according to a Washington watchdog group. Hampton and Ensign bonded through their conservative evangelical faith. Hampton says he had confronted Ensign more than once about the affair.

July 9, 2009 -- Ensign releases a statement saying his parents paid the Hamptons $96,000 in April 2008, as she and her husband were ending their employment with him. Ensign said his father, a Las Vegas casino mogul, and mother gave payments of $12,000 each to Cynthia Hampton, her husband, Doug, and two of the couple's children. Ensign says he has no plans to resign from his seat. Also, CREW calls for a criminal investigation into whether or not Ensign gave Cynthia Hampton considerably more than $25,000 in severance income that may have gone unreported.

July 14, 2009 -- Ensign says not only will he not resign, he will seek reelection in 2012. Also, details emerge about the confrontation between Ensign and his peers from his Christian home on Capitol Hill over his affair.

July 17, 2009 -- CREW adds Ensign's parents to the complaint filed with the FEC over the $96,000 payment to the Hamptons.

July 19, 2009 -- The Sun offers a look inside the house on C Street. The scandal swirling around Ensign renewed interest in the secretive fundamentalist Christian group known as The Family, with whom he lives when in Washington, D.C. Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, also embroiled in an extramarital affair, have ties to C Street.

July 23, 2009 -- Questions arise over trips abroad Ensign took paid for by The Family, which operates the C Street house that has been at the center of recent sex scandals involving Ensign and other elected officials. Also, Ensign's communications director Tory Mazzola leaves on the heels of Ensign's chief of staff, John Lopez.

Aug. 3, 2009 -- The Sun obtains emails that indicate Ensign's staff had been aware of his affair while it was ongoing.

Aug. 13, 2009 -- Rep. Dean Heller becomes the first high-ranking Nevada Republican to call on Ensign to break his silence and answer remaining questions about his affair. He also says the Ensign scandal weighed heavily on Heller’s decision not to run against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, both delaying the decision and influencing him not to run.

Aug. 19, 2009 --Ensign says his affair with a friend's wife was different from former President Bill Clinton's affair because Clinton committed a felony when he lied about it to a grand jury. He tells the Associated Press: "I haven't done anything legally wrong."

Oct. 2, 2009 -- The New York Times publishes a story detailing the extraordinary lengths Ensign went to in mollify Doug Hampton. Ensign faces the threat of expulsion from the U.S. Senate and possible criminal penalties, according to several legal and ethics experts interviewed by the Sun.

Nov. 8, 2009 -- Ensign moves out of the C Street house, the Christian home he shared with other elected officials on Capitol Hill that came under scrutiny for its residents’ beliefs and practices and their role in trying to end the Nevada Republican’s affair. Ensign apparently was not pushed out, but left on his own. He apologized to his colleagues.

Nov. 30, 2009 -- Ensign gives his first full-length interview since disclosing the affair. He tells KXNT-AM's Alan Stock he "deeply regrets" it.

Jan. 19, 2010 -- The FBI gets involved and begins interviewing former Ensign aides as it probes the fallout from the affair.

April 1, 2010 -- Ensign's rent gets him in trouble. Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington files complaints against Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan; Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; Jim DeMint, R-S.C. and Ensign; as well as Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Penn.; Heath Shuler, D-N.C.; Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; and Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. They all lived at the red brick house on C Street in Washington. CREW alleges they received an improper gift from C Street Center, Inc., which owns the house.

Nov. 19, 2010 -- The Federal Election Commission dismisses a complaint against Ensign over the $96,000 payment his parents made to his former mistress and her family. Earlier that week, Ensign announced his intent to run for a third term.

Dec. 2, 2010 -- Ensign's lawyers say the Department of Justice has halted its investigation of the Nevada senator, who was accused of improperly paying off employees to cover up an extramarital affair.

Feb. 1, 2011 -- The Senate Ethics Committee announces it has appointed a special counsel as part of its preliminary inquiry into allegations that Ensign misused his power, money and influence as a U.S. senator to cover up the affair.

March 8, 2011 -- Ensign announces he will not seek another term in 2012.

March 10, 2011 -- Previously undisclosed email messages turned over to the F.B.I. and Senate ethics investigators provide new evidence about Ensign’s efforts to steer lobbying work to Doug Hampton and could deepen his legal and political troubles, the New York Times reports. Ensign suggested that a Las Vegas development firm hire Hampton after it had sought the senator’s help on several energy projects in 2008, according to e-mail messages and interviews with company executives.

March 24, 2011 -- Doug Hampton is indicted. He is charged with illegally lobbying the senator's staff on behalf of a Las Vegas airline company and an energy company. Federal law prohibits a former senior Senate aide from lobbying the Senate for one year after terminating employment.

April 21, 2011 -- Ensign announces his resignation, effective May 3. Read the text of his resignation letter.