Tuesday, July 21, 2009 | 2:08 a.m.
Sen. John Ensign’s extramarital affair with Cynthia Hampton is a story that likely won’t die down anytime soon, not as long as the Nevada Republican continues to duck the rapidly escalating number of questions that he should answer.
As the story of Ensign’s dalliance with his then-campaign employee and wife of then-staff aide Doug Hampton continues to trickle out, a growing number of people have been drawn into this mess. Serious questions have already been raised about the $96,000 in “gift” payments Ensign’s parents made to the Hamptons and their children, including whether that transaction was legal and whether disclosure laws were violated.
Layered on top of that is a fresh set of questions about Ensign’s living arrangements in Washington with fellow members of Congress who belong to a secretive fundamentalist Christian group known as The Family.
On Sunday the Las Vegas Sun published an interview with author Jeff Sharlet, who lived with Ensign and his group in 2002. The interview by host Dave Berns, originally broadcast on his public affairs show “State of Nevada” on KNPR-FM, raises the possibility that the group has not only helped Ensign cover up the affair, but also has played a significant role in his foreign travel and policy decisions.
Sharlet made a good point when he said: “When you vote for someone, you want to know that they are their own man, you want to know they make decisions for themselves.”
Do the colleagues who live with Ensign on C Street exert influence over his decisions as a senator? When Nevadans send someone to Congress, they are doing so with an expectation that the senator or House member will serve the state’s interests first instead of those of a secretive group, religious or otherwise.
Government works best when it is transparent, but there has been nothing transparent about the way Ensign has handled himself since he revealed the affair.