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Ensign’s parents gave Hampton family $96,000

Ethics commission calls for probe as Coburn disputes ‘untruths’ in Hampton’s TV interview

Updated Thursday, July 9, 2009 | 12:42 p.m.

Statement Tuesday on behalf of Ensign

  • In April 2008, Senator 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. After the Senator told his parents about the affair, his parents decided to make the gifts out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends during a difficult time. The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others. None of the gifts came from campaign or official funds nor were they related to any campaign or official duties. Senator Ensign has complied with all applicable laws and Senate ethics rules.
Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Tom Coburn

WASHINGTON -- Republican Sen. John Ensign said today his parents paid the family of his mistress $96,000 in April 2008, as she and her husband were ending their employment with him.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Ensign said his parents made the gifts "out of concern of the well-being of the longtime family friends during a difficult time."

Earlier today an ethics group that has sought probes of Ensigns reported severance payment to Cynthia Hampton asked for a Department of Justice criminal investigation into the matter.

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 said today he has no plans to resign and intends to continue his work despite ongoing questions about his affair.

"I said before, I always planned on serving and working hard - working harder than I ever worked -- and I'm going to continue to do that," Ensign told the Sun in brief comments this afternoon in Washington.

Ensign declined to say whether his housemate, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, suggested he pay the family restitution, as Hampton has claimed, though he said he should have heeded Coburn's advice to end the affair with Cynthia Hampton.

"His statement, as far as my recollection, is accurate," Ensign said. "If I had listened to him things would have been a lot better off."

Coburn denied assertions by Hampton that he encouraged the Nevada senator to pay the family money to help them go away.

Coburn called Hampton's claims "absolute untruths," though the senator did not dispute having intervened in February 2008 to counsel Ensign about the affair.

"I categorically deny his statement," Coburn told a small group of reporters Thursday outside the Senate chamber. Coburn also denied he was present when Ensign wrote the one-page, handwritten break-up note to the woman, Cynthia Hampton, that the Las Vegas Sun released yesterday along with columnist Jon Ralston's exclusive interview with Doug Hampton.

"I was never present when the letter was written, never made any assessment about paying anybody anything," Coburn said. "Those are untruths. Those are absolute untruths."

Coburn had released a statement yesterday saying if Ensign had followed his counsel to end the affair and repair the damage, the situation would have ended long ago.

When pressed today what exactly he counseled Ensign to do, Coburn refused to say.

"That's private communication and I'm never going to talk about that with anybody," Coburn said.

"I was doing that as a counselor, as both a physician and an ordained deacon," he said.

"I'm not going into the details of that and never will," he said. "I never will - not to a court of law, not to the Ethics Committee, not to anybody, because that is privileged communication."

Also today, a Washington ethics group today called for a Department of Justice criminal investigation into whether Ensign gave his mistress considerably more than $25,000 in severance pay that may have gone unreported.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said it has called on Attorney General Eric Holder to order a criminal investigation after Doug Hampton disclosed the severance payment in an interview Wednesday.

“As despicable as Sen. Ensign’s conduct has been, it now appears it also may have been criminal,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. “The Department of Justice has a responsibility to ensure that all Americans – even high level political officials – are held accountable for their actions.”

The group has previously filed complaints with the Senate Ethics Committee and the Federal Elections Commission over Ensign’s affair with Cynthia Hampton. Sloan said if the payments were not disclosed as required by campaign finance law, Ensign could face felony criminal charges.

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